Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 34 (More on Lipton’s quantum-physics-free quantum physics)

May 12, 2018

So let’s look now at the great “groundbreaking study” that Lipton claims established the importance of quantum physics for biology.

As it happens, the study is available on line. A glance through it reveals it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with quantum physics.

Just for the record, I will reproduce the abstract of that study here. No need to read it.

(Note for those scanning through quickly: this is NOT Lipton.)

“How dendrites of different neuronal subtypes exhibit distinct branching patterns during development remains largely unknown. Here we report the mapping and identification of loss-of-function mutations in the abrupt (ab) gene that increased the number of dendritic branches of multiple dendritic (MD) sensory neurons in Drosophila embryos. Ab encodes an evolutionarily conserved transcription factor that contains a BTB/POZ domain and C2H2 zinc finger motifs. We show that ab has a cell-autonomous function in postmitotic neurons to limit dendritic branching. Ab and the homeodomain protein Cut are expressed in distinct but complementary subsets of MD neurons, and Ab functions in a transcriptional program that does not require Cut. Deleting one copy of ab or overexpressing ab had opposite effects on the formation of higher-order dendritic branches, suggesting that the Ab level in a specific neuron directly regulates dendritic complexity. These results demonstrate that dendritic branching can be suppressed by neuronal subtype-specific transcription factors in a cell-autonomous and dosage-dependent manner.”

Those still laboring with outdated “Newtonian linear thinking” will fail to see any quantum physics in the above abstract; but in fact, Liptonian quantum physics is percolating all through that passage. As we have seen, its essential ingredient is merely that it is complicated.

In the previous post I put up the graphic Lipton uses to illustrate this point. I’ll reproduce here again, this time with Lipton’s caption.

Map of interactions among a very small set of the cellular proteins (shaded and numbered circles) found in a Drosophila (fruit fly) cell. Most of the proteins are associated with the synthesis and metabolism of RNA molecules. Proteins enclosed within ovals are grouped according to specific pathway functions. Connecting lines indicate protein-protein interactions. Protein interconnections among the different pathways reveal how interfering with one protein may produce profound “side-effects” upon other related pathways. More wide spread “side-effects” may be generated when a common protein is utilized in completely different functions. For example, the same Rbpl protein (arrow) is used in RNA metabolism as well as in pathways associated with sex determination. (Lipton’s caption, summing up the aforementioned study, from which the graphic is taken p. 105.)

This is the first Lipton’s readers have heard of any of these things, and the first and only time that Rbpl proteins have been mentioned, whatever the heck they are. Lipton clearly understands what the study is about, in terms of the biology, and his readers will assume that he is also correct that it has something to do with quantum physics too — because they trust him and assume that he is not going to bullshit them about the rest of it. But he is.

And by now we are getting used to the way his copy-and-paste blocks of technical jargon suddenly shifts gears, with a crunch and a grind, into his anti-scientific confabulations.

I invite readers to look at the passage again and spot, if they didn’t already, the term that doesn’t belong…

….. Correct — the Liptonian insertion is the term in inverted commas: “side effects”. He knows the term is incorrect here, hence the quotation marks. With this dramatic foreshadowing, he is setting up an assault on medical science.

He follows this up with more of this highly technical cut-and-paste lecture notes that absolutely none of his readers will understand, but will assume is relevant to his argument. I will quote it in full.

Clearly, biological dysfunctions can result from miscommunication anywhere within these complex pathways. When you change the parameters of a protein at one point in such a complex pathway, you inevitably alter the parameters of other proteins at innumerable points within the entangled networks. In addition, take a look at the seven circles in the next illustration that group proteins according to their physiologic functions. Notice that proteins within one functional group, such as those concerned with sex determination (arrow), also influence proteins with a completely different function, like RNA synthesis (i.e., RNA helicase)…

Well of course, RNA helicase — everyone knows what that is, surely….. It’s the only time Lipton mentions it in the entire book, and he offers no explanation. And as always this cascade of jargon leads to the non sequitur that he hopes his brow-beaten and acquiescent readers will implicitly accept without noticing the crunching gear shift.

…”Newtonian” research scientists have not fully appreciated the extensive interconnectivity among the cell’s biological information networks.

Factual error.
Biologists since the time of Aristotle — to say nothing of Newton’s time — have mapped out relationships every bit as complex as what is being shown above. 

The mapping of these information network pathways underscores the dangers of prescription drugs. We can now see why pharmaceutical drugs come with information sheets listing voluminous side effects that range from irritating to deadly.

Factual error.

Extraordinary misunderstanding from Lipton here. He sees side effects as evidence of an intrinsic failure. The whole point of introducing a substance into a system is to alter the system. Medical scientists carefully track the way this substance inevitably affects other elements in the system too. This is in fact displays awareness of the complex interactions between that Lipton accuses them of being incapable of.

This awareness is a defining characteristic of modern medicine: altering one element in a complex system affects others. Costs and benefits of this are carefully weighed up, using the massive data bank that is being constantly maintained and updated, in order to plan a course of treatment. It is not about “applying a cure”, as with deadly medieval folk medicine and as with deadly modern “alternative medicine” of the kinds Lipton promotes.

Humans were not designed by a creator, as Lipton believes, with easy access roads pre-built to enable “natural healing” to make neat repairs.

When a drug is introduced into the body to treat a malfunction in one protein, that drug inevitably interacts with at least one and possibly many other proteins.

Well, yeh, that is kind of the point.

Complicating the drug side-effect issue is also the fact that biological systems are redundant. The same signals or protein molecules may be simultaneously used in different organs and tissues where they provide for completely different behavioral functions. For example, when a drug is prescribed to correct a dysfunction in a signaling pathway of the heart, that drug is delivered by the blood to the entire body. This “cardiac” medicine can unintentionally disturb the function of the nervous system if the brain also uses components of the targeted signaling pathway.

And this is of course exactly why you see those long lists of side effects.

Lipton is on a roll now, and suddenly veers off into evolutionary history. Rather than unleash another avalanche of error and misunderstanding, I will leave off now and pick it up again later…


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 33 (One sentence)

May 6, 2018

Back to Lipton again. We left him, quite some time ago, in the middle of a sentence.

I had decided to simply flatly contradict the first half of it, ignore the rest of it, and move on through the book as quickly as possible. But the subsequent posts never materialized. I had been hoping to briefly sum up what he was saying and just plow on relentlessly, but it all got too confusing.

I now realize that I was wrong to skip over the second half of that sentence. In fact, both halves of it reveal and explain the central point of this whole chapter. Rather than speeding up, we will have to slow down and go through it word by word. Lipton would object to this reductionist approach, and he would be right to do so. As so often with Lipton, the whole is indeed more stupid than the sum of its parts. But we need to start somewhere.

Here is that first half of that sentence again:

While quantum physics implied the existence of such interconnected information pathways….

Now, to break it down….

“While…” implies not only that there is a second part of this sentence which will build on the first; but also that the first part is an established fact. It is unclear if Lipton thinks it was him who established this fact, or if he wants his readers to think that this ‘fact’ is established science. What is clear though, is that this fact has not been established by anyone at all, and is therefore not a fact but an unfounded assertion. 

What he is implying concerns the subsequent two words:

…quantum physics…

For Lipton this term has two meanings:
1. the text-book meaning, which physicists deal with (of which he has absolutely no knowledge whatsoever but doesn’t realize it); and
2. Lipton’s own special meaning.

And this “quantum physics”, he asserts:

…implied the existence of interconnected information pathways…

We have already seen this graphic from Lipton, but now it begins to get a little clearer what the hell he meant to imply with it.

Liptonian “quantum physics” implies this (graphic from Biology of Belief)

He didn’t exactly mean that any system interconnected pathways are quantum physics (even though that is what his caption says), but rather that anything as complex as lines connecting points on a pentagram was previously unknown to science, and incomprehensible.

But the advent of quantum physics forced humans to admit that such levels of complexity can indeed exist. Were it not for quantum physics, no one would ever have been able read a bus timetable, write a shopping list or complete a join-the-dots puzzle.

Recall that Lipton has already insisted that his convoluted and chaotic ramblings are in fact exemplars of quantum complexity. A plodding, Newtonian “linear” thinker, Lipton believes, can only stare in bafflement at the way he makes his case, as threads appear and disappear apparently at random. This is grand new mode of communication has only been possible, he thinks, since the advent of quantum physics. (He may have a case here. It may well be that without quantum physics, no one — not even Lipton or his editor – would have ever thought that writing like that is a good idea.)

And now on to the rest of the sentence.

While quantum physics implied the existence of such interconnected information pathways, recent groundbreaking research in mapping protein-protein interactions in the cell now demonstrates the physical presence of these complex holistic pathways.

Again, breaking this down into its component parts….

“Groundbreaking research” implies that the reason this research was “groundbreaking” was because it demonstrated (i.e. confirmed) something that until then had only been implied by quantum physics.

Again, this is complete bullshit, or to use the standard term adopted for these statements: factual error. The researchers — he lists them and I will look at them in the next post — were not trying to “demonstrate” anything that was “implied” by quantum physics. (Neither real text-book quantum physics nor Liptonian quantum physics.)

…demonstrates the physical presence…

Again, complete bullshit and factual error.

As we have already seen, Lipton thinks that quantum physics deals with “energy”, which he thinks is spiritual, and not physical. (Hint for Dr Lipton — do you perceive any similarities between the words “physics” and “physical”?)

And here he blunders into the same utterly stupid mistake that he was making every time he confused homologue and analogue — thinking that the presence of characteristics in one necessitates their presence in the other. Just as microcosm and macrocosm must mirror each other (according to medieval mysticism), so too must the physical and the quantum physical mirror each other. Entanglement in quantum physics must be the same thing that happens on the physical plane when you get your headphone wires tangled; a non-local event in quantum physics must mean that a chaotic narrative with threads that pop randomly into and out of existence must mean you are talking holistic quantum science.

And just as all the characteristics in a human being must also be present in a single cell, so too must everything that is possible in the spiritual realm of quantum physics, also be possible in the clunky physical world.

And this has now been “demonstrated” by “groundbreaking research”.

The groundbreaking research has indeed proven that reality can include complex interactions, had hitherto only been “implied” by quantum physics, and of course doubted by the plodding materialistic dullards who inhabit biology departments and hospitals.

And this — the figure below, which Lipton takes from the “groundbreaking research” — is what Lipton thinks has only been discovered after quantum physics implied it–

Complicated stuff holistically implied by quantum physics (Source: Biology of Belief, p. 105)

Yes, Lipton really does think that the important thing here is how complicated this picture is, and that the “Newtonian” mind was never able to conceive of anything so complex. Newton, who of course invented calculus, and all scientists prior to Einstein (who Lipton thinks developed quantum physics), would simply be overwhelmed by the complexity of all these connections.

And of course, it is “holistic”, in terms of “including the whole”. But how “holistic” is it to talk about quantum physics and not include the math? The laws of grammar might get you from one end of a sentence to another, but it won’t get you any closer to reality.

And the laws of grammar won’t cure cancer.

The next post will look briefly at the “groundbreaking research”, and then go off somewhere else, I don’t know where.


“Not knowing” and failure to prevent harassment (A brief statement about Lawrence Krauss)

March 27, 2018

Update/Note — I should have made it clearer in the text below that Sam Harris took a principled stand, in real time, rejecting Lawrence Krauss’s denials and making it clear that an appropriate apology from Krauss is necessary. I linked to Harris’s statement and wrongly assumed that readers would not only know its contents, but include them as context for this blogpost. Thus, what was intended to be a few minor disagreements and points for discussion looked like a very deliberate and unfair attack on Harris. I should have clearly stated Sam’s position, and my general agreement with- and appreciation of it.

hortly before the recent exposure of Lawrence Krauss’s apparently habitual sexual harassment behavior, I referred to him on this blog for the first time. Had I not mentioned him, I wouldn’t have written anything about this issue, but I have decided to put a few things on the record.

The video posted below is from Cristina Rad, who is fairly well known in the skeptic network. She describes a simple incident in which Krauss groped her. She says it “wasn’t a big deal” and it didn’t leave her scarred; but it ruined her image of Krauss, who she had been pleased to meet.

The only reason, as Rad notes, that she made this video about an incident that occurred in 2011 is because she was so pissed off with Krauss’s denials. She shouldn’t have had to risk exposing herself to the hordes of sexually incontinent males in the atheist network.

It is obvious to me that someone who one time behaves as Krauss did has already behaved like this before. Krauss seems to think his fame entitles him to just grab women. Women have been warning each other about him for years, but mysteriously, none of his male colleagues knew anything at all about it. That can only be down to willful blindness or odd chimp-like tolerance of implicit acceptance of a separate set of morals for alpha males. Whatever the reason, it should be seen as a general failure.

I only know of Krauss via his books and You Tube, but I already had suspicions about him. He was on the record for an extremely stupid statement in 2011 about his friend, the convicted pedophile Joseph Epstein. I had also heard him (on You Tube) repeatedly talking about Richard Feynman’s promiscuity, in a way that I found obsessive, objectifying of women, and just weird.

So why did I refer to him? Because I hadn’t heard anything more about off-putting behavior from him since 2011. It’s not a big deal, but wish I had have trusted my intuitive judgment and not associated my blog with him.

But seeing as I did, and as I also sometimes refer to others who have made public statements about this, I will take a moment to put a few things on the record.

Sam Harris, who I also refer to here fairly regularly, knows Krauss and put out a statement on You Tube.

He says he has done many events with Krauss and “never seen him misbehave”. Okay, but even I knew of accusations against him — and that was back in 2011. Sam Harris must have known of these too, and if so, must have wrongly dismissed them, as I also did. I can’t see any way around that. He should have said something to explain why he dismissed such information and concerns.

[Update 28.3.2018: Commenter E-R S has argued below that it is entirely plausible that Harris really had never heard of the accusations against Krauss — “I personally had absolutely no idea that people had said this about him, ever, and I’ve spent many years running one of the biggest online skeptical pages…”  The link in the previous paragraph goes to Sam Harris’s complete statement. I only refer to parts I want to discuss. I should have already noted that Harris convinced Krauss not to appear with him on stage the night the accusations broke; that Harris effectively disassociated himself from Krauss’s “blanket denials”; and that he has encouraged Krauss to apologize.]

Harris has a talent for noting how bad ideas can lead to bad behavior. Here is Krauss’s idea of evidence for why Epstein shouldn’t have been convicted of pedophilia. Why didn’t Harris see this as a red flag? Krauss:

As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.

(Gulp. I confess I’d read that warning about him on the Skepchick blog in 2011 and must have blotted out the details from memory. Ouch. Ouch. Mea culpa. Holy heck.)

Then Harris casts doubt on the allegations, and says we shouldn’t “rush to accept all of them”. This is remarkably stupid from Harris. Who has been “rushing”? This was in plain sight in 2011. By the time Buzzfeed put out their article, it became immediately clear that Krauss is a habitual, serial harasser, who needs to apologize and stop. But instead, Harris focuses on the article. Yes, it was poorly written, but the issue is that your friend gropes women and you didn’t know enough to stop him!

Then Harris says that he is “not in a position to judge the truth of such allegations”, but says he has since sought and accepted some private confirmation that Krauss does indeed act like that. Again, that’s a bit late.

Then he starts going on about the importance of recognizing “gradations of sexual misbehavior”. Here he is complaining about excesses he perceives in the #MeToo movement. But is this really the time for that? Anyway, he could have saved his breath. The quickest way to stop this spinning out of control would be for Krauss to admit what he’s done, show that he understands why it is wrong, and apologize sincerely and unreservedly. Which didn’t happen.

Even better of course, would have been for other prominent male atheists in 2011 to quietly tell Krauss in private to get a freaking clue. Which also didn’t happen.

Is there a good reason why only women knew about Krauss since at least 2011, and his male peers only found out about it in 2018 after Buzzfeed alerted them?

Jerry Coyne, who I also sometimes refer to here, (and whose work I admire very much) has taken a stand on this. He put out a statement that was, I thought, much better than Sam Harris’s. Coyne was less equivocating, and did at least find time to generally condemn sexual harassment — something which neither Harris nor Krauss bothered to do. But I did find Coyne’s tone somewhat reluctant and perhaps petulant. I’m sure, however, that Krauss would have read it, and it must have stung (and rightly so).

I don’t know how much Jerry Coyne has to do with Krauss, but I must also wonder why he didn’t know anything about it until Buzzfeed told him. And, as with Harris, some private inquiries cleared the matter up very swiftly. That could have happened in 2011 too, couldn’t it? (It certainly should have been enough for me, and I failed to take it seriously, or wrongly assumed he’d improved.)

So, why did all the other prominent male atheists fail to stop Krauss?

Richard Dawkins, who I also refer to here sometimes, has said nothing at all. Not good.

I will continue to refer to him here, but let me put it on the record concerning an earlier matter: his pathetic and disgraceful behavior towards Rebecca Watson makes me feel a sting of embarrassment each time I refer to him. If his writing wasn’t so extraordinarily good, I’d use someone else.

All I can say to anyone who wants to complain about how Krauss has been treated: grow a pair. Krauss’s male colleagues failed to protect women from him, and him from himself. They let him carry on like this in public until so many women were pissed off with him that the lid blew off. Now the story has been picked up by people trying to hurt the atheist movement. It’s too late for whining about that now. It’s their own (our own) stupid fault.

Posted by Yakaru


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 32 (Lipton gets confused and starts promoting Newtonian physics)

March 17, 2018

Back to Lipton.

It may surprise Lipton’s readers to learn that Lipton’s working definition of the term “quantum physics” is: a system which is bafflingly complex. I’m not being sarcastic. He tries to make it look as if he is referring to the actual quantum physics that appears in a physics text book. But as soon as he has to be specific, he switches to using it as a metaphor for a way of thinking, before switching back to pretending he is talking about real quantum physics.

He does not mention mathematics at all. That should already be a red flag for his audience, but there is an entire industry of New Age “quantum physics” that keeps away from math entirely. They can read any number of thousand or more such books without ever encountering any real physics…. But Lipton gets even this New Age version wrong.

And of course, just being bafflingly complex does not make something quantum physics. And the level of complexity that baffles Lipton is far less complex than a bus timetable.

To avoid any miscomprehension or pure disbelief at how ignorant and above all utterly stupid he is, Lipton supplied his readers with two diagrams. I will repeat them here from the previous post.

He accuses biologists of being stuck in “linear” thinking — even though biology largely consists of studying the interrelationships between complex systems.

And for some reason he thinks this “linear” thought is a result of their being mired in Newtonian physics — which they aren’t. And if they were (which they’re not) it wouldn’t have anything to do with Newtonian physics, which is not “linear”.

And the “complex” thinking that he accuses biologists of being incapable of is of course something they do routinely; and, even more of-coursely, has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum physics

This (below) is the kind of thinking that he thinks was impossible until the advent of quantum physics. I have no idea why he thinks this.

Bafflingly complex Liptonian Quantum thinking

We continue boring into these compacted layers of factual errors.

Biomedical scientists have been particularly confounded because they do not recognize the massive complexity of the intercommunication among the physical parts and the energy fields that make up the whole.

Factual error #1: The study of biology, and especially biochemistry, consists almost entirely of the study of the way complex systems interact with each other.

Factual error #2: “Energy fields”????? It may be true that not very many biologists study the laws of physics at the subatomic level while studying, say liver function, but why on earth should they? Lipton gets lost each time he tries to switch between scales. And this is what Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg says about quantum physics in biology:

“It’s difficult enough to use the equations of quantum physics to calculate the strength of the binding of two hydrogen atoms in the simplest hydrogen molecule. The special experience and insights of chemists are needed to deal with complicated molecules, especially the very complicated molecules encountered in biology, and the way they react in various circumstances.”
(Dreams of a Final Theory, Chapter 1.)

Lipton continues:.

The reductionist’s perception of a linear flow of information is a characteristic of the Newtonian universe.

Factual error.

Not even Newton limited himself to “linear thinking”.

In contrast, the flow of information in a quantum universe is holistic.

Factual error.

Lipton has got this exactly backwards — quantum physics is the ultimate in reductionism. And he’s got it doubly wrong, as he also thinks relativity theory — which very unholistically obliterates “absolute” space and time — is quantum physics.

Newtonian physics, on the other hand, demonstrated that the heavens and the earth are governed by the same physical laws. And the Newtonian universe presupposes very nice holistic absolute values for space and time.

He then continues to ridiculously describe all the “complex pathways” in his stupid diagram (see above) of “holistic” “quantum” “physics”.

I wanted to skip over the following explanation of what that second diagram illustrates — it is a dull hypothetical example of the kinds of thing that biologists are supposedly baffled by, and can only be comprehended by those who have mastered “quantum physics”. But unfortunately he builds another layer of non sequitur stupidity on top of it, which explains why he is doing all this.

Lipton explains:

Cellular constituents are woven into a complex web of crosstalk, feedback and feedforward communication loops (see illustration [above]). A biological dysfunction may arise from a miscommunication along any of the routes of information flow. To adjust the chemistry of this complicated interactive system requires a lot more understanding than just adjusting one of the information pathway’s components with a drug. If you change the concentration of C for example, it doesn’t just influence the action of D. Via holistic pathways, variations in the concentration of C profoundly influence the behaviors and functions of A, B, and E, as well as D.

Are any of Lipton’s readers really honestly so dumb that they don’t realize that biology routinely deals with stuff as complex and far more complex than that? Or are they just too mentally exhausted from the previous 103 pages to emit any howls of rage or derision?

Lipton follows that utter rubbish with a non sequitur that exposes exactly what his game is with all this “quantum” stuff.

Once I realized the nature of the complex interactions between matter and energy….

Why is Lipton speaking as if that diagram and his description has anything at all to do with “energy”?

(Sadly, we already know why he is doing it. He knows that Relativity Theory mentions “energy”, and he thinks that Einstein was talking about the “subtle energies” that esoteric people are always talking about. And of course, he thinks that relativity is part of quantum physics.)

In other words, Lipton has graduated from making erroneous claims about the current state of biological knowledge, to making erroneous statements about one of his own (already erroneous) diagrams.

Factual error #1: Nowhere in that diagram or that explanation is “energy” represented.

Factual error #2: Nowhere in that diagram or explanation is an interaction between “energy” and matter represented.

Factual error #3: And if by “energy” he is referring to the kind of energy field from actual quantum physics, he is wrong to represent it as a single point in Newtonian space.

…Once I realized the nature of the complex interactions between matter and energy, I knew that a reductionist, linear (A>B>C>D>E) approach could not even come close to giving us an accurate understanding of disease.

Factual error #1: Lipton seems to be saying here that any chain of causality that only uses elements made of matter is “linear” and Newtonian; and that by including elements of “energy”, it now becomes “quantum” and “holistic”. But the explanation of the diagram doesn’t mention “energy”. So what on earth is he talking about?

Factual error # 2: There is nothing inherently or exclusively “reductionist” about a linear chain of causality.

Factual error #3: And of course, his supposedly “holistic” diagram of supposedly “complex” interactions is just as reductionist as the linear one.

While quantum physics implied the existence of such interconnected information pathways…

Factual error #1: Why is Lipton talking about “information pathways”? That term comes from genetics and relates to the flow of genetic “information”, i.e. sequences of DNA code inscribed in chemical structures. He isn’t talking about that here. Or is he? Who knows? (Lipton certainly doesn’t.)

Factual error #2: Nothing whatsoever in quantum physics “implies” the interconnection of “information pathways”.

Quantum physics is all about fields and wave functions. It is Newtonian physics that is all about fixed points and trajectories. Lipton is a goose.


Religious Education vs Religious Instruction

March 4, 2018

I guess everyone knows why religious leaders try to get access to children as early and in as many ways as possible: to convince children they “belong” to a church — in other words, that they are owned by the church; to allow the church to seep into their identity to such a degree that the idea of leaving will feel like losing a limb.

When priests and other holy folk gain access to school children, they also have the opportunity to get children used to “religious talk” as a mode of communication — with its own social customs and unwritten rules. Children learn that when adults suddenly start speaking in hushed tones, usually beginning with a rising intonation, which soon descends into the calming tones of reassurance as holy knowledge descends to earth through the mouth of the preacher, the polite thing to is to remain silent and passive. Don’t, with a dubious sidelong glance, ask “Um, is that really true?” Or even worse, “How do you know that?”

Thus, when they grow up into adults, the preachers can still talk to them in these ponderous tones with the same intonation about all the things that God is, and God isn’t, without the adults asking “Hey, what happened to your voice just then? Do you talk like that all the time?” Rather, this special tone barely registers as weird anymore with most adults. It is simply accepted, even by the non-religious, that when we hear priests and popes talking in these hushed tones, we remain silent and look at our shoes rather than allow any involuntary “WTF???” to reveal itself publicly on our face.

Do to otherwise would be impolite, and a sign of poor character.

It’s difficult to go against social customs, when everyone else in the room is carrying on as if it is normal for a pope to be given fawning media coverage. I can understand why Catholics do it — they’ve been brainwashed into not applying normal ethical standards to their Church leadership; but why the hell do non-Catholics do it too?

Social pressure? Lazily accepted custom? Unquestioned habit?

Or do they subconsciously fear that God will strike them down for not fawning? Possibly; especially if they learned in school to fearfully display the required submissive signals in the presence of a holy person.

Another aspect of the religious infiltration into schools can be that teachers who otherwise have a highly developed idea of what “education” means, acquiesce to allowing “religious instruction” into their classrooms.

Instruction of course implies that there is only one way of doing it. And the “instructor” knows what this way is. And the “instructor” has done it (or is doing it) successfully himself. It is an open secret that there are other religious “instructors” who teach completely contradictory things, but it is impolite to notice this, and would be seen as inflammatory to comment on it. Children are insulated from hearing such stating of the obvious. They learn to mirror the acquiescent behavior of the adults, until any the recognition of the obvious is automatically dismissed from consciousness.

Alongside this subtle conditioning, and in perfect accordance with it, the ideas which children will encounter during their schooling will be unwittingly controlled by adults so as to avoid any expression of doubt. The idea that it is anything other than normal to “belong” to a religion; that religion is the only possible entrance to the realm of the profound or tragic; that religious leaders by their very nature speak from this exalted realm; will not appear in the normal course of schooling.

Never will they seriously confront the possibility that there are no gods, no heaven, or that none of the priests who routinely claim positive knowledge are being truthful.

Why is this?

Again, politeness, laziness, conformity, habit?

Religious “instruction” of course also implies an authoritarian power structure. And as such it grants a power and authority to the instructor immeasurably greater than what such a person can plausibly claim to know. But again, children’s conditioning for politeness in the face of grotesque absurdity is maintained. those who wear certain clothes are allowed to speak in certain tones and claim to know things without anyone having the right to expect a few qualifiers. “Perhaps”, “maybe”, and “I am speculating” are terms that are utterly alien to spiritual discourse. No one bothers to wait for them, and no one even notices that we gave up even expecting them ages ago.

To rewrite any of those nice priestly intonations about the nature God, but with qualifiers inserted would be impolite. No one would even dream of doing it mentally during a sermon, as it would swiftly render any church service intolerable.

No one would ever dream of giving it as an exercise for school children. The parents would rebel, and the children possibly placed in grave danger of being thenceforth incapable of suspending incredulity long enough to get through a religious upbringing without disowned or worse by their parents.

Education about various religions is of course perfectly in order, as long as it is treated like any other subject. I would however, argue that it should not merely be an uncritical look at the world’s religions. It should, especially in later classes, deal with problems and difficulties that arise as a consequence of religion.

Here are a few thoughts in this direction.

* Religion should not be presented as something that “everyone has”.

* Religion is often a matter of cultural identity, rather than a bunch of claims about facts. It is normal for people to identify with a religion while not believing all the finer details that a religion posits as fact. (Understanding this can later help protect people from domination by a priesthood.)

* Cultural identity linked to a religion allows a degree of conscious choice about which cultural aspects to follow and which to reject.

* Cultures change, and all religions change over time.

* The word “God” means not only vastly different things across various religions, but also within religions. Children can be made aware of the fact that two people from the same narrow sect might talk about “God” with each other every day for decades, and might one day discover they both mean something vastly different by it.

* Children can also be directly informed that no one who claims to know something about God really knows it. They may sincerely believe they know it, but they don’t. God is green and is surrounded by creatures whose bodies are covered in eyes, according to John the Revelator; has a long white beard and a particular set of genitals, according to other traditions; and is entirely free of attributes according to others. Everyone has the perfect right to say or believe what they want, but it would be polite to speak more reservedly about it in public, or not at all.

* Religious freedom is — and should always be — a universal human right. Anyone looking for “common ground” between various faiths, or science and various faiths can start right there. And it’s probably better to stop right there too, rather than piss everyone off by proclaiming all religions are “ultimately different visions of the same truth”. If you want to contradict the basic teachings of nearly every religion and form of belief that ever existed, fine, but do honestly — don’t stumble into it unwittingly by granting yourself the right to define all their core beliefs, while claiming to know all their contents better than their adherents. Don’t do that. It isn’t nice — it’s just dumb and arrogant.

* Do teach about evolution from an early age. Teach it as a fact first, without any tricky explanations. That way, no one will be shocked when they discover that there is a reason why we look and behave the way we do.

* Do not tell anyone that “evolution does not contradict your religious beliefs”, as the US’s National Committee for Science Education does. It’s arrogant and deceitful to claim such knowledge — it might be in accordance with them, but most probably it is not. Claiming it is, merely sets people up to either not fully understand evolution, or for a shock if they ever do fully understand it. You don’t want to wind up tricking people into losing their faith like that.

* Just teach about evolution without mentioning anyone’s religion, and let people figure out the implications for themselves. They’ll manage better without you.

Posted by Yakaru


Religion, Spirituality and the ‘Inner Hierarchy’

February 25, 2018

This post is a collection of thoughts that starts suddenly in the middle of nowhere and then wanders off somewhere else. It is not especially coherent, but it is supposed to mean something. I am still clearing up the ideas involved in it. It might be interesting, dull, utterly inscrutable or mundanely obvious.

Humans, like other mammals and primates, have a more or less pre-programmed ‘inner hierarchy’. We automatically size up other people we encounter, to determine whether or not we feel dominant or submissive to them, and adjust our behavior accordingly. Much of this is learned and socialized of course, but there is also a substructure of automatic behavioral patterns that automatically kick in, especially if the dominance or submission is clear cut.

In other words, humans have a kind of map for sets of behaviors for each level of a hierarchy. Clearly, a similar set of psychological conditions accompany these.

These behavior patterns sit deep in the psyche, often largely beyond conscious awareness or control. these are triggered by certain signals — body posture, certain types of language use, adornment, etc. I assume anyone reading this has experienced a situation where they were shocked at their own behavior in some kind of unexpected response to such signals: too submissive to an authoritarian, or maybe nasty to someone who signaled submission.

I am arguing that we automatically place ourselves somewhere on a scale of dominance/submission, according to a kind of ‘inner map’, which also contains behavioral patterns which are triggered according to where we place on this scale.

Everyone tends to go a little weak in the knees when encountering an especially high status person. (There are of course good evolutionary reasons for an instinctive tendency to express submission to highly dominant individuals.) But it’s not just crass power games involving survival or receiving favors. Our sense of awe when encountering an extraordinary landscape, or a wild animal, or work of art, etc., probably comes from this same aspect of our psychology.

We are carrying, in other words, a complete program for how to act, and how to feel for each status level of this inner hierarchy.

So people can feel genuine awe for “God”, regardless of whether or not there are any gods, if they happen to stumble into that part of the brain where the feeling of awe for a higher power is located.

Mystics, especially outside the three dominant monotheisms, report feeling like they themselves have been transported to this higher status position, without feeling dominant over others, but more like they are observing themselves and everyone else as if from a great height or distance.

The existence of this ‘inner hierarchy’ makes humans very susceptible to religion. The notion of an ultimate alpha male is close enough to deep seated mammalian instinctive feelings and behaviors. We are at the utter mercy of external factors, regardless of whether they’re due to random chance or deliberate intention of a “higher” being. It’s not easy to live with that fact, and it is easy to feel stress related to powerlessness.

The biologist Robert Sapolsky has argued persuasively (using research o primates including baboons and humans) that stress is most closely associated with lower status. In fact merely occupying a lower status position is itself a cause of stress.

We can also note that under stress (aka lower status in relation to some stressor) or who feel helpless, are more likely to trust an authority figure.

All this makes it quite easy for priests to convince people that “God” is up there on the top step, and that there are steps descending downwards towards us — the hierarchies of seraphim and cherubim, the angels, a few saints, and then splashing out into physical reality, the popes, cardinals and bishops, down a few more stairs to the priest who is standing before you, one step up. You can see the stairs leading upwards, maybe the last visible step being some magnificent church, before it disappears into the clouds.

And that priest is at the immediate end of all that power, right in front of you.

Some religions and sects (and cults) are very particular about the status its sheep are allowed to occupy. They use ideology to prevent people from moving up the scale on their own ‘inner hierarchy’ as it exists in their psyche. They even define humanity in a way that denies the very possibility of such inward mobility.

Humans are guilty of original sin, or do not belong to a lower caste, etc. The whole thing is framed to keep followers stuck in one position on their ‘inner hierarchy’. (This is why religious authorities are unfailingly opposed to the idea of evolution. It loosens their grip on their power to define humanity, and therefore loosens their ideological control over their subjects.)

Should a subject feel themselves being tugged upwards, they should immediately dismiss it as hubris. The fear of falling even further downwards can be used as a constant threat over them.

Gautama the Buddha said “be a light unto yourself”, implying, I suppose, that humans are in fact free to move upwardly in this ‘inner hierarchy’.

The dissolution of the illusion of self — so surprising at first, and maybe a little shocking too — is a key to this. A ‘self’ can be fixed at one level on the inner hierarchy, and held there until its future Day of Judgment, where this single unified ‘self’ will be condemned or redeemed, according to its acts.

For this reason, mystics who preach the illusory nature of the ‘self’, have never been tolerated by any authoritarian religion. The practice of meditation is also treated with immense caution at best (and seen as a subset of prayer); and usually without outright condemnation. They don’t want people locating themselves at many different points on that inner hierarchy, or maybe, all points and nowhere on it, simultaneously. That ‘self’ is the thing that authoritarian religions hold power over.

(It is instructive to note here that despite appearances New Age esoteric spirituality is also guilty of this. They have carried over the Platonic/Christian view of the “soul” as something unitary and immortal. Thus the stakes for salvation are just as high as in Christianity, and the power of its priesthood just as great — though without any moral strictures for priestly behavior. This is bad for actual spirituality, but great for marketing.)

As a small child, I accidentally discovered this myself. I used to lie awake at night looking for who “I” refers to. I couldn’t find it, yet there was still consciousness, somehow, without any “I”, just bubbling up out of nowhere like a slow, happy fountain. I used to just lie there, completely astounded by this experience. As a teenager I once remembered that I used to be able to do it, but when I tried I couldn’t get there anymore. Too much inner turmoil.
Conscious awareness is a tiny little window onto the present moment, like a little piece of sky, with clouds swirling in and out of view. It is surrounded by a wall of words and thoughts about hopes and dreams, tied together ultimately, by emotions. Emotions resulting from the pain of loneliness and the fear of death or dissolution.

It does seem to me that it is possible for the frame of this window to expand or disappear, and reveal the vast empty sky — a sky of consciousness, which is just there: it is, by its nature, aware, but it doesn’t do anything.

Posted by Yakaru


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 31 (Liptonian Quantum Physics — in two diagrams)

February 16, 2018

Having spent the last ten pages or more attacking and ridiculing biologists and medical practitioners for their supposed ignorance of quantum physics, and failure to use it, Lipton is about to finally tell us what he thinks it is and how it should be used.

At this point, we can probably guess this is not going to go well for Lipton. However, even I was not prepared for the two diagrams that Lipton used to clearly and succinctly sum up his views.

We pick up the action on page 103 where he continues his clueless attack on modern medicine:

In seeking knowledge of how the body’s mechanisms are “controlled,” researchers have focused their attention on investigating a large variety of physical signals, classified into discrete chemical families, including aforementioned hormones, cytokines, growth factors, tumor suppressors, messengers and ions. However, because of their Newtonian, materialistic bias, conventional researchers have completely ignored the role that energy plays in health and disease.

Factual error #1: Lipton, having failed each of his five attempts at saying “E=mc2”, is now claiming that E=chi (or life force).

Factual error #2: Likewise, he is claiming that E=chi is what Einstein really meant when he said that E=Ec2, or E=m (where M=matter), or E=(mc)2, or whatever that very nice thing Einstein said about Energy was.

Factual error #3: Lipton is claiming (or would attempt to if he was capable) that mass times the square of the speed of light plays a role in health and disease. What does that mean?

Factual error #4: Lipton is also therefore claiming that things like homeopathy or acupuncture “work” because chi equals mass times the square of the speed of light.

Factual error #5: Lipton thinks E=thingy is part of (or all of?) quantum physics.

Factual error #6: He is also claiming that “conventional researchers” are ignoring whatever it is he is talking about because they don’t know quantum physics. If they were ignoring it, it would be because they found no evidence for any such thing after 250 years of looking.

Factual error #7: Researchers have most definitely not “completely ignored” the idea of the life force. If anything they are far too indulgent of it, given the aforementioned history. Here in Germany, as with elsewhere in Europe, it is difficult to find a GP who doesn’t practice homeopathy or some other form of evidence-free ideological medicine.

Factual error #8: Medical practitioners do not seek knowledge about how the body’s mechanisms are “controlled”; rather they try to understand how they function, and what influences their function.

Factual error #9: Medicine does not have a “Newtonian” bias. They routinely use quantum physics in medical imaging and diagnosis. And incidentally, Lipton’s hatred of supposedly “mechanistic” medicine explains why he never uses the term “quantum mechanics”.

In addition, conventional biologists are reductionists who believe that mechanisms of our physical bodies can be understood by taking the cells apart and studying their chemical building blocks.

Factual error #1:

Darwinian evolution — the great fact at the heart of all biology and the defining characteristic of life itself, is most certainly not reductionist. Evolution is only visible when one takes a step back from the details and views the interacting systems of a whole ecosystem. (The term ecosystem was coined by the great Darwinian biologist Ernst Haeckel in the 1870s.)

No one would ever have found natural selection by looking only at the smallest details. Even genome research would only have revealed networks of commonalities, but would have been unable to discover the cause.

Factual error #2:

Reductionism is in fact what Lipton was doing with all that nonsense about cells being a computer.

They believe that the biochemical reactions responsible for life are generated through Henry Ford-styled assembly lines: one chemical causes a reaction, followed by another reaction with a different chemical, etc.

Factual error.

Biologists don’t believe this. Life would never have arisen at all if chemical reactions were a production line. Life requires imperfect copying of a replicating molecule, or no variation (and hence no evolution, and no life) could arise.

The linear flow of information from A to B to C to D to E is illustrated on the following page.

Here is the first of Lipton’s two diagrams. This is what Lipton thinks modern medicine is.

Modern medical conception of physiological functioning, according to Lipton

This reductionist model suggests that if there is a problem in the system, evident as a disease or dysfunction, the source of the problem can be attributed to a malfunction in one of the steps along the chemical assembly line.

Factual error. A huge and utterly disgraceful one.

Modern medicine does not work anything like this. This is just stunning ignorance.

Ignorance and utter hypocrisy.

Lipton will soon be appearing at a chiropractic conference. Chiropractic assumes that all diseases have a single cause: a misaligned vertebrae. He is published by Hay House — Louise Hay thinks all diseases have a single cause: negative thoughts. the kinds of quackery that makes his money by supporting are nearly always based on a spurious “hitherto undiscovered” or “discovered and suppressed” single cause for diseases.

This linear approach is also why quackery is easy to sell; and also why it fails so atrociously.

By providing the cell with a functional replacement part for the faulty element, by prescribing pharmaceutical drugs for example, the defective single point can theoretically be repaired and health restored.

Factual error.

Sometimes illnesses do in fact have a single cause. And sometimes providing a functional replacement can be life saving or crucial to daily life. Does Lipton use glasses? Or brush his teeth? Would he get a hip replaced if he couldn’t walk?

And anyone whose doctor has suggested a dietary change or more exercise will know that Lipton is flat wrong about the rest of it.

Now we get to his second diagram. I am not kidding. Lipton thinks this is quantum physics!

Liptonian Quantum Physics

Really dude? That’s it???? That is what you’re selling???

Factual error #1:

“Quantum” means the exact opposite of “holistic”.

Factual error #2:

That diagram has nothing whatsoever to with any part of quantum mechanics at all.

However, the quantum perspective reveals that the universe is an integration of interdependent energy fields that are entangled in a meshwork of interactions.

Factual error #1:

Quantum physics has to do with interactions between particles at the atomic or subatomic level, which it predicts to the most insane levels of accuracy. It has nothing to do with a few randomly chosen elements interacting randomly with each other at an undisclosed level, and then projected onto undisclosed medical occurrences.

Factual error #2:

Entanglement in quantum physics refers to specific particles under specific circumstances. It does not refer all things in the universe collectively; nor does it refer to anything that gets tangled.

Factual error #3:

Interactions immeasurably more complicated than this stupid diagram drawn up by this extremely stupid man can easily be dealt with not by using quantum mechanics, but rather with plain boring old math, or maybe calculus — invented by Newton.

Factual error #4:

Lipton is seriously claiming that his hypothetical chart is only made possible by quantum physics. He is, effectively, claiming that getting of an underground train and catching a bus is only possible thanks to quantum physics.

Factual error #5:

Lipton is seriously claiming that medical science can never come up with something like this:

Functional mapping of genes and proteins (Source)

Factual error #6:

He is of course still claiming that the reason biologists can’t come up with this kind of work is because they are all ignorant of quantum physics.

Lipton has so far kept his perfect record, of getting every single thing that he claims to be a fact important to his argument hilariously and unbelievably wrong.

I’m up to 31 posts from just the first 103 pages, and there are still 100 pages to go. I keep hoping that his mistakes will start repeating and I can skip through it quicker, but so far he just keeps on bringing out new an extraordinarily rich compounds of compacted errors.

Plus, I keep finding errors I hadn’t thought of initially. Like the fact that his beloved Lamarck believed in pre-formationist embryology — which would exclude all possibility of his beloved epigenetics.

I will try to get through the next 100 pages a bit more quickly, but I don’t know how. Stuff that looks irrelevant suddenly emerges again later as part of an argument, and summarizing his ideas requires not only putting his ideas into some kind of logical order, but then also trying to convince readers that he really did say that.