Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 27 (No quantum physics yet)

February 1, 2018

Before starting, a request to anyone reading this — please be especially prepared to correct or improve anything I write about all this, no matter how trivial. I’ve been quite out of my depth with the biology so far, and am only covering it because Lipton has made such an appalling mess of it. With physics I am not only out of my depth, but wandering about on the ocean floor, being scared by jelly fish. (And thank you for reading!)

Lipton spends a few pages talking about why he didn’t study physics at university. Then he says,

It wasn’t until 1982, more than a decade after I had finished graduate school that I finally learned how much I had missed when I skipped quantum physics in college. I believe that had I been introduced to the quantum world in college, I would have turned into a biology renegade much earlier.

Forgive me, but I think it is far more likely that had Lipton studied physics he would have crashed out because he failed to comprehend the math, rather than becoming a “renegade biologist”. But he will have his chance to make me eat those words in the course of this chapter.

He continues:

But on that day in 1982….

This leads to a story about him sitting on the floor of a warehouse, when the phone rings and… That’s right, Lipton has decided that it’s not enough to tell people about physics; he also has to tell another rags to riches conversion story about how it entered his life. We can skip this one.

After a few more pages of his story, we get this explanation for the pointless excursion:

welcome to my unorthodox lecturing style! For the linear-minded, we’re officially back to quantum physics….

He appears to mean by this that his lecturing style mimics the apparent irrationality of some aspects quantum physics. If you find him hard to follow, it’s because you’re too intellectually sluggish.

And for the benefit of the “linear minded” let me point out that I didn’t skip anything important. We are not “back to quantum physics” at all because he hasn’t said anything about it yet. He seems to have gotten himself so worked up that he hasn’t realized that.

….[we’re officially back to quantum physics], through which I was delighted to learn that scientists cannot understand the mysteries of the Universe [sic] using only linear thinking.

That seems to confirm it — he really does think his “non-linear” lecturing style aids the comprehension of reality.

Then suddenly a new subheading appears out of nowhere.

Listening to the Inner Voice

And the story that had been rattling on and on pointlessly starts up again. A few pages later the story reaches its climax, as he buys a book and starts reading it. This is The Cosmic Code by Heinz Pagels, the guy who Lipton doesn’t realize went to court to call people like Lipton frauds, (as mentioned in the previous post). Using the authority of Pagels, Lipton says that “hyper-rational” biologists have limited themselves to Newtonian physics.

Physics, after all, is the foundation for all the sciences, yet we biologists rely on the outmoded, albeit tidier, Newtonian version of how the world works. We [biologists] stick to the physical world of Newton…

Factual error.

Lipton reported earlier that he used an electron microscope in his research, which is not Newtonian. He should have noticed that medical technology has advanced considerably since the time of van Leeuwenhoek.

….and ignore the invisible quantum world of Einstein…

Factual error. Quantum physics is routinely applied in medical imaging.

…in which matter is actually made up of energy and there are no absolutes.

So does this mean we can discard all those blocks of highly technical Biology 101 cut-and-paste stuff that Lipton has been overwhelming his readers with? Pity, so far those stodgy cut and pastes were the only parts of the book where Lipton hasn’t made a complete fool of himself. (Literally, the only parts.)

At the atomic level, matter does not even exist with certainty; it only exists as a tendency to exist.

We will have to wait for Lipton to explain the relevance of this for those of us who exist above the level of the atom.

All my certitudes about biology and physics were shattered!

Indeed, that does appear to have happened.

Medical science keeps advancing, but living organisms stubbornly refuse to be quantified.

Aside from the cliched nature of this rhetoric, this seems an odd way to approach quantum physics, where everything is quantified to degrees of accuracy that are unthinkable for our “Newtonian” perceptual world.

Where is Lipton going with this anti-mathematical approach?

Discovery after discovery about the mechanics of chemical signals, including hormones, cytokines (hormones that control the immune system), growth factors and tumor suppressors, cannot explain paranormal phenomena.

Ah– that’s where this is heading: into paranormal phenomena….

He continues, giving a list of “paranormal phenomena” that he claims “Newtonian biology” “can’t explain”. Of course, Newtonian physics usually deals very swiftly paranormal claims — false positives, selection bias, post hoc reasoning and misreporting all fit easily into the Newtonian world.

He offers not a shred of evidence for their existence and — notably — without saying how quantum physics can explain them.

Spontaneous healings

This term does not belong in anything purporting to be a science book. Spontaneous remission (or -regression) would be better, though even that is vague.

psychic phenomena

There has never been a single well documented “psychic phenomenon”, let alone a plural of it.

amazing feats of strength and endurance

Lipton might be surprised to learn that “amazing” is not a scientific term. You need to quantify it, establish it happened, and argue that it’s “impossible” under the known laws of biology.

the ability to walk across hot coals without getting burned

This is a specific claim at least, but that also makes it extremely easy to categorize as a factual error. As this article points out: 

“If you walk briskly across a short distance on a substance that is a poor conductor of heat you are likely to survive unscathed. If, on the other hand, you attempt the same feat on a good conducting surface you will end up in the serious burns unit. Charcoal or wood embers are poor conductors and ideal for firewalking.”

acupuncture’s ability to diminish pain by moving “chi” around the body

Factual error #1 acupuncturists do not claim that it “moves chi around the body”.
Factual error #2 chi is not a scientific concept, as there is no evidence for its existence.
Factual error #3 despite regular claims to the contrary and a plethora of poorly conducted studies, there is no good evidence that acupuncture diminishes painor helps with anything else.

Lipton continues:

Of course, I considered none of that when I was on medical school faculties. My colleagues and I trained our students to disregard the healing claims attributed to…

Why did he train his students to “disregard” these things? Why not to understand them and consider the evidence? My guess is because he did not know how to do such a thing, and hasn’t learned it since. He continues his list:


Again? We had this literally two sentences ago. Did he proofread any of this?


This is a deadly dangerous and bogus form of treatment based on the entirely unsubstantiated claim that supposed misalignments of the vertebrae are the cause of all known diseases. It might surprise some people to learn that having your neck violently jerked about or your spine twisted can be dangerous.

massage therapy

Factual error #1 There is nothing in massage therapy that “can’t be expained by Newtonian physics”.
Factual error #2 It is of course a perfectly normal, well studied, well supported, and therefore frequently utilized therapy. Lipton should know this.


This doesn’t work. That was demonstrated by the very Goddy and usually anti-scientific Templeton Foundation, which carried out the only large scale and properly conducted study on intercessory prayer ever undertaken. the only measurable effect was that some patients actually seem to do worse f they think someone is praying for them.

We denounced these practices as the rhetoric of charlatans because we were tethered to a belief in old-style, Newtonian physics.

Anyone who denounces massage therapy as the “rhetoric of charlatans” is an idiot. The other things don’t work, but are often pursued by charlatans but also by well meaning people who don’t understand the placebo effect or false positives or confirmation bias.

The healing modalities I just mentioned are all based on the belief that energy fields are influential in controlling our physiology and our health.

Factual error. Again, massage therapy is not based on such an idea. What a stupid claim Lipton is making there.

All this came under the heading “Listening to the Inner Voice”. Why?

So far this has been a bit dull, even by Lipton’s standards of dullness. And we still haven’t had any quantum physics yet, but maybe that will come under the next sub-heading: The Illusion of Matter.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 26 (Liptonian Quantum Physics — preliminaries)

January 31, 2018

We are now on page 94 and ready to begin Chapter 4. Everyone knows by now that this train will be heading straight for the nearest cliff, but already just the title makes me want to slam on the emergency brake.

Chapter 4


So let’s stop here and clear up a few things before going any further.

The biologist Jerry Coyne recalled once (somewhere on his website) that he was at a conference which included a panel discussion with various speakers. One panel member, who was intent on accommodating spiritual ideas into a scientific context, started off on the kind of rant that spiritual teachers love to use.

“Reality is not what it seems. We all think that this table is solid, but according modern physics…..”

But before he could say that “matter doesn’t really exist” and that “everything is really just energy”, the physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was also on the panel, climbed up on the table and started pounding on it, shouting–

“It is solid!!! It is solid!!!”

This extremely simple physics lesson should be remembered at all times when dealing with spiritual teachers who talk about quantum physics.

And here is my short list of commandments for non-physicists who feel compelled to lecture people on this subject.

  1. If an idea can’t be expressed mathematically, it does not belong in the canon of quantum physics.
  2. Just because physicists are kind enough to translate their knowledge into verbal language, doesn’t mean that you can apply the laws of grammar to it and produce new facts.
  3. If you haven’t at least mastered higher mathematics you shouldn’t be talking about quantum physics.
  4. Unless you’ve mastered calculus, you shouldn’t be spouting off about Newtonian physics either.
  5. A special one for Lipton: if you are incapable of correctly using straight forward concepts like “homolog”, or don’t even understand what an optical illusion is then stay away from physics altogether.

Let me get something else out of the way too before we go any further. Lipton is about to tell us about the book that changed his life and converted him to mystical biology. It is The Cosmic Code, by Heinz Pagels, from 1982. (I’ve already covered this a few years ago.)

Pagels somehow managed to convince Lipton to reject what he understood as “nucleus-centered biology”, and to change him from a godless scientist to a believer in the kind of transcendental mysticism he promises to talk about in the Epilogue.

It is from Pagels that Lipton learned of connections between biology — and above all consciousness — and quantum physics. And now Pagels is probably best known to the public for the role he played in Lipton’s “conversion”.

I haven’t read Pagels’ book, but this is one thing he wrote about connections between quantum physics and consciousness:

“No qualified physicist that I know would claim to find such a connection without knowingly committing fraud.”

The statement is from an affidavit he wrote for a court case against the Transcendental Meditation Movement. He went on:

Individuals not trained professionally in modern physics could easily come to believe… that a large number of qualified scientists agree with the purported connection between modern physics and meditation methods. Nothing could be further from the truth….

The claim that the fields of modern physics have anything to do with the “field of consciousness” is false….

To see the beautiful and profound ideas of modern physics, the labor of generations of scientists, so willfully perverted provokes a feeling of compassion for those who might be taken in by these distortions.

Fraud? False? Distortions? …..But Lipton says that Pagels wrote an entire book to make exactly that claim. It changed Lipton’s life. What is going on?

Clearly, there are two possibilities here.

Either Pagels wrote a book about the mystical dimensions of quantum physics and afterwards had a drastic change of heart;


Pagels wrote a perfectly normal book about physics, and Lipton didn’t understand it.

I doubt anyone has to think too hard about these two options.

Pagels was even prepared to state before a court of law that it is fraudulent to claim that quantum physics supports New Age spiritual teachings. But now Lipton is about to go to great lengths to tell us that Pagels said the exact opposite.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 25 (Chapter 3 again — because of incredibly weird stuff)

January 29, 2018

After promising to venture into Liptonian quantum physics next, I find I need to return to Chapter 3 once more. As we saw last time, Lipton promised to map all the components of a computer onto the cell. However, despite all the trumpeting of how great this will be, he skipped over it rather quickly…. Too quickly.

I also skipped over it rather quickly, being a bit panicked by how complicated it all was. I did, however, register that it sounded especially ridiculous even by Lipton’s standards. So I decided I should go back and make a list of the respective components and see how it all adds up.

This is how Chapter 3 opens:

So what structure in the prokaryotic cell provides its “intelligence”? ….The only organized cellular structure that can be considered a candidate for the prokaryote’s brain is its cell membrane.

This is the beginning of Lipton’s “Copernican Revolution” in biology — the triumphant switch from “nucleus-centered biology” to his own “membrane-centered biology”.

I’ve often noted that Lipton wrongly equates the ‘Central Dogma’ of genetics with genetic determinism. (Genetic determinism is a concept from social theory, not biology.)

Now I realize that Lipton has even gotten genetic determinism wrong as well. He thinks it is “nucleus-centered biology” — the idea that all the processes of life are effects of the cell nucleus, whose influence radiates outwards into every aspect of life. This is not genetic determinism.

It is also not mainstream biology — the field in which Lipton holds a Ph.D. Yet Lipton is writing this whole book to refute this non-existent ideology of his own invention. (That he has failed so far even to do this is a testament to Lipton’s extraordinary powers of ignorance, unparalleled in the annals of science.)

So, having gone to such lengths to establish that a single cell membrane is as complex as the human brain, Lipton suddenly drops this idea and tries to establish that the entire cell — not just the membrane/brain — is no more complex than a personal computer.

As always, Lipton gets utterly lost when he wanders about between orders of magnitude.

And just as he thought he could map all the characteristics of a human being onto a single cell, (which, incidentally, he still hasn’t gotten around to), he now thinks he can map all the characteristics of a PC onto a cell.

Lipton’s text is of course very chaotic, but here is my list of the various correspondences he asserts in different places in this chapter.

Membrane ———– liquid crystal / computer chip
receptor ————– keyboard
effector molecules — channels
nucleus ————— hard drive / memory disks
DNA —————— programs on the disks
proteins ————– writing, graphics programs etc.



?????? ———————- factory that built the computer
?????? ———————- operating system
?????? ———————- computer user
?????? ———————- words typed by user on keyboard
?????? ———————- computer programmer

everything else in a cell — ?????

That there is nothing listed next to “computer programmer” on the side of the cell is a big problem for Lipton’s argument, because

the programmer lies outside the computer/cell

But what is the programmer?

…..Well, it’s “you”. You, the sum total of your cells, are the programmer of each of the cells in your body.

How do you do this?

By inserting memory disks into your “computer/cell”.

The nucleus is simply a memory disk, a hard drive containing the DNA programs that encode the production of proteins. Let’s call it the Double Helix Memory Disk. In your home computer you can insert such a memory disk containing a large number of specialized programs like word processing, graphics and spreadsheets.

….Yes. That really is what Lipton is claiming…… 

Lipton thinks that you insert nuclei, with programs that you have carefully written using DNA code, into your cells.

I’m not making this up. It’s all there on page 93. And what’s more:

When you remove the Double Helix Memory Disk by removing the nucleus, the work of the cellular protein machine goes on because the information that created the protein machine has already been downloaded.

Yes, Lipton really is saying that just as you have inserted nuclei full of the DNA you have written into your cells, you can just as easily eject these nuclei from your cells.

No wonder the poor guy in the library at 2 am thought Lipton had gone mad.

Rhonda Byrne once claimed that the law of attraction governs all chemical reactions and all interactions between subatomic particles — something which would cause the instantaneous destruction of the entire universe if it were true. I thought that was the stupidest idea that anyone had ever had, and perhaps could ever have. But I think Lipton might have topped it here.

A word of warning for Lipton’s readers. Do not try to insert nuclei into any of your cells.

Also, do not extract the nucleus from any of your cells.

And do not believe Lipton when he says that if you remove the nucleus from your cells, they will only “get into trouble”,

when they need the gene programs in the ejected Double Helix Memory Disk to replace old proteins or make different proteins.

This is not true. Cells can’t replicate if they don’t have a nucleus. Lipton and his readers might be surprised to learn that cell replication does in fact play an important role in many aspects of your life.

And a notice to Dr. Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D:

DNA is already in the cells. It is not ever at any point in any biological process whatsoever inserted from “the environment” — not by a programmer; nor by anyone else.

Some serious flaws seem to be emerging in this revolutionary “membrane-centered biology”. But maybe they can be fixed with quantum physics. (And maybe not.)


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 24 (The end of Chapter 3)

January 28, 2018

We are going to finish Chapter 3 today.

Lipton has just “discovered” that the cell is a “functional equivalent” of a personal computer. He thinks he is about to bring about a Copernican Revolution in biology with this insight.

I realized in those early morning hours that even though biological thought is still preoccupied with genetic determinism…

He repeats his error of equating genetics with genetic determinism, which it isn’t. But Lipton, as we saw in the first post, thinks the ‘Central Dogma’ of genetics is genetic determinism — revealing his complete ignorance of one of the central ideas of genetics. And he thinks that most scientists dogmatically believe in Lipton’s mistaken idea.

It’s like if I said “This is Fred, but everyone thinks his name is Barry” — when really no one thinks his name is Barry, and in fact his name is Thomas. Lipton does this kind of thing all the time. It is extremely tiresome to unpack it all.

So, biological thought is not “still preoccupied with genetic determinism”, but Lipton claims that:

….leading edge cell research, which continues to unfold the mystery of the Magical Membrane in ever more complex detail, tells a far different story.

Lipton has co-opted the whole of biological research as support for his “Magical Membrane” hypothesis, as if it opposes the rest of biology, and as if he is the only one who has noticed it.

Lipton introduces two new terms here. He declares himself a convert of “membrane-centered biology”. But the membrane is not the center of his biology, any more than the computer keyboard (which he equates with a membrane) is the center of computer programming. Why does he think the keyboard is so powerful? Why does he equate it with the membrane? Who knows? Even for those who accept all of Lipton’s idea so far, this makes no sense.

The second term he introduces here refers to the kind of biology which he converted from: “nucleus-centered biology”. He thinks mainstream biology sees the cell nucleus as the central hub, outwards from which all effects radiate.

So there sits Lipton in his underpants in his house in the Caribbean, at two in the morning, having undergone his revelationary conversion to membrane-centered biology. I will let him explain how this great moment of science unfolded.

At that moment of transformation, I was frustrated because there was no one with whom I could share my excitement. 1 was alone out in the country. My house didn’t have a telephone. Because I was teaching at a medical school, I realized that there would undoubtedly be some students studying in the library. 1 hastily threw some clothes on and raced off to the school to tell someone, anyone, of this exciting new insight.

Running into the library, out of breath, wild-eyed with my hair flying in all directions, I was the epitome of the absent-minded professor. I spotted one of my first-year medical students and ran up to him proclaiming, “You have to hear this! This is great shit!” I remember in the back of my mind how he pulled away from me, almost in fear of this raving, mad scientist who wildly broke tire silence of the sleepy library. I immediately began to spew forth my new understanding of the cell, using the complex, polysyllabic jargon of a conventional cell biologist. When I finished my explanation and was silent, I was waiting to hear his congratulations, or at least a “bravo,” but nothing was forthcoming. He was now wide-eyed himself. All he could say was, “Are you OK, Dr. Lipton?”

I was crushed. The student had not understood a word I had said.

This strikes me as one of the more credible moments in the book. (Though why was the university library open at 2 am?)

Anyway, Lipton says that his colleagues in the biology department reacted the same way.

We are not puppets of our genes, as geneticists [do not] claim, but rather,

We are the drivers of our own biology, just as I am the driver of this word processing program.

Lipton is not claiming that “just as we can reprogram a PC, we can reprogram our cells” (which would already be ridiculous), but rather that *because* we can reprogram a computer, we must therefore also be able to reprogram our cells. This is how he constructs his argument. We must be able to, because cells and PCs are homologues. (Which, of course, they aren’t, because Lipton gets the definition of a homologue wrong, as well as the implications of homology.)

We have the ability to edit the data we enter into our biocomputers, just as surely as I can choose the words I type.

Factual error. No we don’t. And Lipton offers no parameters or limits to this claim.

Lipton says that it wasn’t merely the implications for science of this insight that made him run to the library on that fateful night. It was the spiritual implications.

He will not however be spelling these out now. He will save them up for the Epilogue.

Instead he will be telling us about quantum physics next.



Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 23 (Lipton thinks the brain is an undifferentiated glob of goo that is incapable of retaining information)

January 21, 2018

We left Lipton last time abseiling his way down into a morass of stupid, using his profound misunderstanding of the term homologue as a rope:

The second corollary insight is that the programmer lies outside the computer/cell.

He thinks, of course, that a cell — any cell — is a “functional equivalent” of a computer chip. For some unfathomable reason he has decided that this means that we must now assume that they share all characteristics with each other, so if we know the characteristics of one, we can inevitably find all of these in the other.

He thinks you can do this with two homologues, which you can’t. But even if you could it wouldn’t matter, because these two things (a cell and a computer chip) are not homologues.

And, of course, Lipton doesn’t know what a homologue is either.

But anyway, according to Lipton, all cells are programmed by some kind of programmer who is external to them.

Biological behavior and gene activity are dynamically linked to information from the environment, which is downloaded into the cell.

Factual error.

Downloading involves the transfer of information from one system to another. When a gene is switched on or off by an environmental trigger, no information is transferred. This would fail even as an analogy, but Lipton is using it as some kind of fact.

As I conjured up a biocomputer, I realized that the nucleus is simply a memory disk, a hard drive containing the DNA programs that encode the production of proteins.

After spending much of the book railing against “mechanistic biologists”, Lipton has now reduced the cell to a biocomputer. Well, ironically, “mechanistic” biologists do in fact sometimes use a computer hard drive as a metaphor for DNA, but they do it without deleting all the extra complexity of the cell. Unlike Lipton.

And they do it without getting so completely lost in their own metaphor that they no longer know whether they are Arthur or Martha. Unlike Lipton.

Let’s call it the Double Helix Memory Disk. In your home computer you can insert such a memory disk containing a large number of specialized programs like word processing, graphics and spreadsheets.

Here we see the first two wheels of the train being carefully guided off the rails.

In this story, DNA is inserted into the cell — downloaded even! — from the outside.

After you download those programs into active memory, you can remove the disk from the computer without interfering with the program that is running.

The next couple of carriages follow. Lipton knows this particular train wreck well, having already caused an identical one with a different metaphor. This was his brilliant idea that nucleus is the gonad of the cell, because you can remove a nucleus without killing the cell, just as you can lose your balls without dying.

The significance of this, for Lipton, is that it means that all those scientists who thought the nucleus is the brain of the cell are wrong. Unfortunately for Lipton, no scientist except him is stupid enough to even conceive of such a stupid notion, let alone install it in mainstream science as dogma.

But for Lipton, this supposed discovery was a Copernican Revolution in biology. For every other scientist it is nothing unexpected. More surprising would have been if a cell with no nucleus were to duplicate itself — a process Lipton wrongly calls “reproduction” instead of mitosis or meiosis. (Anyone who can recall these terms from high school biology has better knowledge than the PhD-wielding Lipton).

He continues, sending his train over the same stupid cliff, using this newly developed line of anti-reasoning.

When you remove the Double Helix Memory Disk by removing the nucleus, the work of the cellular protein machine goes on because the information that created the protein machine has already been downloaded. Enucleated cells get into trouble only when they need the gene programs in the ejected Double Helix Memory Disk to replace old proteins or make different proteins.


The formation of a cell is not analogous to; homologous to; or in any way like the construction of a computer at all. Genes would be analogous here to the deeply embedded instructions in the operating system. Yes, you used to get a CD to insert when you bought a new PC, but nothing analogous to that occurs with any cell at all. At no stage is DNA inserted into a cell from the outside. Honestly…..

What is more, the “Central Dogma” that Lipton so hates, correctly holds that DNA is not altered by new information from the environment. This is still true regardless of how many CDs you homologously insert into any computer.

But Lipton, stepping back from the mangled wreckage a second time, is proud of his achievement. He senses he has the upper hand and starts prowling the landscape looking for crushed genetic determinists.

I had been trained as a nucleus-centered biologist as surely as Copernicus had been trained as an Earth-centered astronomer….

Factual error.

I’m sorry. If this is true, every school Lipton ever attended should be burned to the ground immediately. To put it another way, if any school ever existed that taught the views Lipton claims to have been indoctrinated with, it has since been burned to the ground and all traces wiped from the face of the earth. These stupid ideas are not mainstream science and no one ever taught them to Lipton. It is a mystery where he got them from, but it is a bigger mystery how he ever came to believe that this is mainstream science. No scientist except Lipton has ever held these stupid notions.

….so it was with a jolt that I realized that the gene-containing nucleus does not program the cell.

Factual error.

Or correct statement. What the fuck is it? Indeed, the gene-containing nucleus does not program the cell. The nucleus is just a bubble — it’s not an entity that “does” things. The stuff inside the nucleus does things though. And this is indeed analogous to “programing” the cell: it has, of course, all the instructions for every kind of cell, and depending on various triggers to certain switches, it programs the cell to do a certain job. But for some reason, Lipton is not talking about this. He has never indicated that he even knows about it.

And though these triggers are external to that switch-containing piece of DNA, they are not analogous to a single, freely acting, unified programmer who can decide things of their own volition.

And this set of instructions (aka the genome) is not “downloaded” or “inserted” into an already formed cell from the outside. Lipton is utterly mad to think it is.

The wagons keep tumbling down the mountain.

Data is entered into the cell/computer via the membrane’s receptors, which represent the cell’s “keyboard.”

What about the disk? Do you insert that into a keyboard? If the keyboard is the receptors then what is the thing you stick disks into?

And the membrane was previously trumpeted as being the brain of the cell. Now it’s suddenly a keyboard. Or not even that! Now only the receptors are the keyboard that receive information.

So the rest of the membrane — the double layer of phospholipids enclosing a glob of various molecules — must be the brain….. The brain, where the cell’s perceptions take place, which is aware, and which stores the information the receptor-keyboard receives.

Or something.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 22 (Lipton reveals his method, not realizing what he is admitting to)

January 17, 2018

I’ve probably written about 35,000 words so far in this series, and we are only up to page 90 of Lipton’s book. There are only 110 more to go, so maybe I’ll be done in 50 posts. Lipton builds his case in such a chaotic manner, and piles on layer upon layer of extraordinarily stupid mistakes, that it is extremely difficult to even figure out what he is saying, let alone approach the book critically.

But in this post, it gets easier. Here, Lipton reveals the genius method he has been using to derive his conclusions — which he revealingly describes as “corollary insights”.

Last time, Lipton revealed to us his use of analogies as a kind of wedge to stick into reality and prise it open, so that he can pour in bucket loads of qualities and characteristics that hypothetically must be there, as a corollary of his method. He feels justified in doing this because he thinks these analogies are really homologies — a biological term that implies genuine one-to-one correspondences in particular organs between different species, that have arisen through evolution.

While biologists have good reason to trace out correspondences between, for example, the bones in a human’s arm and a bird’s wing, Lipton has no reason at all to insist that cells must have brains because humans do. This is because there are genuine connections between evolutionary homologues. But there are no such connections between analogues. And Lipton is using analogues and, as we saw last time, calling them homologues, and assuming all he needs to do is find all the remaining correspondences — brain-membrane, nucleus-gonad, and whatever else he has lined up.

And of course, being Lipton, he also gets the definition of homologue completely wrong.

The cell membrane was indeed a structural and functional equivalent (homologue) of a silicon chip!

(As just noted last time, a homologue is no more a “functional equivalent” than are the arm of a human and the wing of a bird functional equivalents. And, as @Lettersquash noted in the comments last time, the implied evolutionary sharing of a common ancestor between the cell membrane and a silicon chip is also unlikely to be an idea worth pursuing.)

Setting these objections aside, however, Lipton’s unexpected thesis has already been confirmed! He continues his story:

Twelve years later an Australian research consortium headed by B. A. Cornell published an article in Nature, which confirmed my hypothesis that the cell membrane is a homologue of a computer chip. [Cornell, et al, 1997]…

The abstract of this paper is here.

Just to be fair to Lipton, I will quote the full passage, as he seems to describe it clearly enough.

The researchers isolated a cell membrane and attached a piece of gold foil under it. They then flooded the space between the gold foil and the attached membrane with a special electrolyte solution. When the membrane’s receptors were stimulated by a complementary signal, the channels opened and allowed the electrolyte solution across the membrane. The foil served as a transducer, an electrical pickup device, which converted the electrical activity of the channel into a digital readout on a screen….

Lipton seems quite at home with such details. He looks like a scientist, and sounds like a scientist, but then follows it up with this this:

This device, created for the study, demonstrates that the cell membrane not only looks like a chip but also functions like one.

Factual error #1:
A cell membrane does not “look like a chip”

Factual error #2:
A cell membrane does not “function like a chip”

Factual error #3
The study does not “demonstrate” anything of the sort.

Cornell and associates successfully turned a biological cell membrane into a digital-readout computer chip.

A better word here would be “effectively”, not “successfully” — by analogy, the cell was effectively turned into a computer chip. And Cornell was not trying to do this, as Lipton implies. He was trying to extract information from it and convert it into something a computer can read.

And please remind me that Lipton thinks a cell can be turned into a computer chip the next time he starts griping about “mechanistic science”.

So what’s the big deal, you ask?

Nope, we are asking what in god’s name are you talking about?

The fact that the cell membrane and a computer chip are homologues…

You keep using that word…

….means that it is both appropriate and instructive to better fathom the workings of the cell by comparing it to a personal computer.

Not only a factual error and logical howler, but also a full admission of guilt.

I confess I was really not expecting this from Lipton. I have repeatedly said he must be using some scatter-brained methodology like this behind the curtain, but I wasn’t expecting to find him proudly explaining each step of it in detail. 

What’s more, he is even saying it far more concisely than I have been able to. So, let me just add a word or two to the above sentence and we have a clear statement of fact.

Because Lipton thinks that the cell membrane and a computer chip are homologues, he also thinks it is both appropriate and instructive to better fathom the workings of the cell by comparing it to a personal computer.

God only knows why Lipton thinks he his logically permitted to do this. By this logic, we can use our homologies with birds to deduce that humans lay eggs and birds have off-shore banking scams.

And why does he even want to do it, for heaven’s sake? He started off saying the membrane is a brain, and grants it perceptions, awareness and intelligence. Now he has suddenly veered off into insisting the entire cell is a personal computer — which, of course, is nowhere near as complex as a brain!!!

Lipton always gets lost switching between scales, (and that is where all his most important arguments take place). The brain is 100s of trillions of times more complex than a cell membrane; and a PC is way less complicated than a cell. Yet he is navigating this territory as if it’s a stroll in the park, rather than intergalactic pole-vaulting..

The first big-deal insight that comes from such an exercise is that computers and cells are programmable.

Factual error.

Just because computers can be programmed doesn’t mean cells can be. That is just plain stupid.

The second corollary insight is that the programmer lies outside the computer/cell.

Factual error.

Actually two factual errors for the price of one. He’s missed out a step here. The “second corollary insight” should have been the deduction that because cells can be programmed, they must have a programmer. Instead of trying to establish this point, he has leapfrogged straight to the conclusion that the programmer of a cell must also be outside the cell.

Here we find Lipton diving back into his peculiar strain of environmental determinism that is so fanatical it would make B.F. Skinner blush. This is so an enormous and complicated knot of errors I had to deal with it earlier in a separate post.

The whole point of this book is to deny that genes have any influence over cells, and that you can re-program your own cells to do whatever you want them to do. Somehow…..


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 21 (Lipton gets another central idea completely wrong)

January 14, 2018

This post deals with the next in a long list of extremely straight forward concepts that Lipton completely messes up without realizing it and then uses as the foundation of his entire argument.

This time it’s about Lipton’s habit of introducing analogies as explanatory tools, and then switching to using them as fact. So a cell receptor “perceives” things in its environment. This is already a poor analogy to start with, but before we know it, the quotation marks have disappeared and Lipton is stating it as a fact that cells have perceptions.

Until now it’s been unclear whether:

a) this is deliberate deception on Lipton’s part;
b) Lipton has forgotten that he is merely using an analogy and starts believing it himself;
c) Lipton doesn’t know that analogies are by definition not to be taken literally; or
d) he is doing something so extraordinarily stupid that neither I nor any reader here would have thought it possible.

In today’s text, Lipton himself clears up this question. (Spoiler alert…… it’s d.)

That Lipton should be so confused about how to use an analogy is very odd. As a biologist he must have already encountered the distinction between a homologue and an analogue. Homologues are physiological structures in different species that have a shared evolutionary history. They may appear quite different and often serve very different functions, but one-to-one correspondences can be traced between them.

The human arm and the wing of a bird, for example, are homologues: their divergent forms have been shaped and modified by evolution to grasp or to fly.


This is distinct from biological analogues. These are structures that appear similar, but have in fact arisen independently of each other. They have been shaped (by convergent evolution) to fulfill similar functions. Insect wings, for example, are analogues of bird wings. They share a function, but did not develop from forelimbs.

Outside of biology, analogies are of course a common explanatory device. And the distinction between mere similarity and fact is just as clear. A plane is said to have wings, but if you find yourself using this analogy to argue that planes fly by flapping them, you have committed a peculiar logical fallacy. (One that should really be named after Lipton.) You are using the analogy too literally and have transferred too many qualities from one to the other.

This is really not complicated. Yet, Lipton has spent this whole book happily sliding about in the space between analogy and literal truth.

With that said, let us now pick up the text from where we left it. Next up, a new heading suddenly appears out of nowhere:

The Secret of Life

Lipton begins to recount another personal story of a “eureka moment” (or for everyone else, a face-palm moment).

In 1985, I was living in a rented house on the spice-drenched Caribbean island of Grenada teaching at yet another “off-shore” medical school. It was 2 A.M….

Lipton rattles on like this for a while, and then revisits that analogy he used earlier about the olives in a sandwich standing for the receptors in a cell membrane. Then he suddenly decides that crystals are a better analogy than sandwiches.

By definition, a structure whose molecules are arranged in regular, repeated pattern is defined as a crystal.

I’m already suspicious about where he heading with this. Then he starts talking about liquid crystal, which flows without losing its crystalline structure.

The phospholipid molecules of the membrane behave in a similar fashion. Their fluid crystalline organization allows the membrane to dynamically alter its shape while maintaining its integrity, a necessary property for a supple membrane barrier….

It sounds to me like rather a stretch to say that phospholipid molecules in a membrane literally have a “liquid crystal organization”, rather than something analogous. But as I lack a background in science, I will have to let it pass.

Lipton then gets to his eureka moment:

….So in defining this character of the membrane I wrote: “The membrane is a liquid crystal.”

Does he mean this rhetorically, as an analogy, or literally, as part of the ‘secret of life’? It’s not clear. He follows it up by adding some more technical details, noting that the membrane keeps some things out and lets some in.

So I continued writing my description of the membrane by adding: “The membrane is a semiconductor.”

He continues:

Lastly, I wanted to include in my description the two most common kinds of IMPs [integral membrane proteins]. These are the receptors and a class of effectors called channels because they provide the all-important means for the cell to let in nutrients and let out waste matter. I was about to write that the membrane contains “receptors and channels” when I realized that a synonym for receptor is the word gate. So instead I completed my description by writing: “The membrane contains gates and channels.”

A gate is a poor analogy. (And an even worse synonym.)

The standard analogy in the text books for a cell receptor is a lock and key, with the key standing for the fitting molecule. This gives an idea of the complex form of the lock/receptor fitting the complex form of the key/molecule. A gate simply lets through anything that’s small enough and thereby misses an important aspect of what Lipton wanted to describe.

Given that Lipton has already overloaded the reader with complex details about electrical charges making molecules twist and turn, why doesn’t he build on and reinforce the reader’s knowledge here, and stick with the usual lock and key analogy?

I sat back and reviewed my new description of the membrane: “The membrane is a liquid crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”

He gets even more excited, when, after a long-winded description of himself sitting in a chair, he opens the manual for his computer and — he claims — finds the same definition for the computer chip as he just dreamed up for the membrane:

“A chip is a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”

Well, that is extraordinary, isn’t it. We can almost hear Lipton’s readers saying “There are no coincidences.”

He has simplified the usual metaphor of lock and key, reducing it to a gate with a channel. And he reduced the complexity of the molecular structure of a membrane to a simple crystalline pattern. With these clumsy and wasteful analogies all he has achieved is to somehow get the sacred New Age word “crystal” into his text.

For the first second or two I was struck by the fact that the chip and cell membrane shared the same technical definition.

Factual error. They don’t share the same technical definition.

Chip: integrated circuit or small wafer of semiconductor material embedded with integrated circuitry.

Cell membrane: a double layer of lipids and proteins that surrounds a cell and separates the cytoplasm (the contents of the cell) from its surrounding environment. It is selectively permeable, which means that it only lets certain molecules enter and exit.

Lipton’s readers don’t realize that the only place you’ll find Lipton’s “technical definition” of a membrane is in Lipton’s book.

He soon follows this with another of his homespun definitions — and this one males it clear what has been going on in his brain while he has been messing about with analogies throughout this book (emphasis added):

I spent several more intense seconds comparing and contrasting biomembranes with silicon semiconductors. I was momentarily stunned when I realized that the identical nature of their definitions was not a coincidence. The cell membrane was indeed a structural and functional equivalent (homologue) of a silicon chip!

Factual error.

A homologue is not a functional equivalent. It could be an analogue, but it is definitively not a homologue. Not any more than a bird’s wing is the functional equivalent of the human hand.

And while a homologue does, by definition, have plenty of one-to-one correspondences between the respective elements, an analogue — again by definition — does not. Lipton reverses these, getting it exactly wrong.

So that’s where all his confusion been coming from. He thinks an analogue is a homologue and therefore implies a heap of one-to-one correspondences between them, even though he should know the correct distinction from his biology training.

Now he is spreading this anti-knowledge to his readers, and will soon be convincing them they can cure cancer, by using the healing power of analogies.