The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton – A Review
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The Biology of Belief is quite a revolutionary and acclaimed work in the emerging field of modern biology. Through experiments he conducts, Bruce H. Lipton, examines the mechanisms through which cells perform the tasks of obtaining and processing information. He outlines his perceptions and beliefs and life as he understands it. Through his epigenetic studies, Lipton provides insight and understanding of the line between biological organisms, the environment and the varied influences of thought, perception and subconscious awareness. He realizes that, contrary to popular belief, life is determined more by the environment than it is by our genes. In this book he argues that the DNA is actually controlled by outside signals that are beyond the cells, together with vigorous and persuasive messaging from our positive and negative thoughts. By examining the way the bio-chemical effects of the brain’s functioning, this work seeks show that all the body cells are affected and influenced by our thoughts. He thus tries to help explain the interaction between nature and nurture.
In the first chapter, Lipton provides us with his description of cells which he sees as complete entities that are capable of survival by themselves and which have the ability to analyze environmental information. According to him cells can not only learn but they can also transfer their knowledge to their descendants. For instance, when a child is infected with the measles virus, the relevant body cells create protection in the form of antibodies. The cells are able to genetically oversee the manufacture of the new antibodies. An individual is made up of trillions of single-celled citizens that work together in concert with an intimately intertwines structure and function. Body cells have created an efficient form of differentiation which allows individual cells that are assigned specific tasks to be grouped together and have similarities in form and function over a given period of time. This differentiation results in an improvement of the overall functioning of the individual cells as well improving their ability to survive. Lipton disagrees with the Darwin theory of evolution based on a concept of struggle and violence and instead embraces Lamarck’s theory that favors the concept of co-operative and instructive interaction among organisms as the basis for life forms to survive and perpetuate themselves. According to Lamarck, organisms are able to adapt themselves in order to survive. They also pass on these adaptations to their offspring. According to Lipton, there exists harmony in nature but Biology emphasizes more the competitive nature instead of the cooperative nature (Lipton, 2010).
This results in the many symbiotic relationships that are observed in nature which points to how cooperation plays a more constructive role in the survival of the biosphere than the “survival of the fittest” concept which attempts to stress more on the competition between organisms. The New Biology, unlike the Central Dogma, views life as kind of cooperative journey involving powerful individuals who are capable of programming themselves to have enjoyable life. The Central Dogma instead views individuals as beings that are under the control of genes and this result in cells being engaged in an internal struggle with each other for survival. Lipton asserts that a fully conscious mind can beat both nature and nurture. Recent findings show that genes can be shared along species through gene transfer which allows species to pass on their cell memories to their descendants (Lipton, 2010).
In the second chapter, Lipton presents his ground-breaking ideas in epigenetics, which is defines as the study of the molecular mechanisms through which genetic activities are controlled by the environment. It was thought that certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes were caused entirely by genetic disposition but New Biology has proved that these diseases are actually caused by complex genetic interactions together with the influence of various environmental factors. Lipton point out that DNA is not self-actuating – it does not have the ability to turn itself off or on. According to him, the actual flow of genetic information commences with an environmental signal, which is then sent to a regulatory protein. The signal then goes to the DNA, the RNA leading to the coding of the protein. In the previous assumption, all the information was flowing from the DNA and the DNA was the sole driver of this process (Lipton, 2010).
According to him, proteins are able to activate DNA but the genes themselves are dependent upon environmental triggers which are the ones that determine when and how these genetic features will be attained. Vigorous epigenetic research has been used to prove that the DNA passed down genetically is not as detailed at birth but is instead shaped by environmental factors such as stress, nutrition and emotions, without changing the basic genetic makeup. In the view of epigeneticists, environmentally caused genetic modifications are then passed on to future generations via the double helix. They have also shown that both the genes –representing nature – and the epigenetic mechanisms – representing nurture – are the two mechanisms that that play a key role in the passing down of hereditary features and materials. It has thus been shown that these epigenetic mechanisms play significant contributory roles in many genetic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes with only about 5% of such diseases being solely attributable to genetic disposition. Thus a lot of cancers are caused and affected not just by defective genes but by epigenetic alterations(Lipton, 2010).
In Chapter 3, Lipton talks of the cell membrane, which he claims may be the real controller of what happens to the cell. It had previously been thought that the nucleus was the brain of the cell but it has been shown that even with the removal of the nucleus, the cells still continued to function normally for up to a month, showing clearly that nucleus is not the cell’s central information processing unit and that even without it the cell can continue functioning and interacting with the environment. Lipton goes on to state that it is the proteins in the cell membranes that are responsible for picking up and responding to different environmental signals and messages. These are the proteins that control how genes operate, which goes against the popularly held notion that genes control their activities. Earlier, genes were thought to control their own activity but in contrast to this popular belief, Lipton states that it is the proteins in the membranes which operate in response to signals from the environment that are picked up by the membrane’s receptors that control how genes operate (Lipton, 2010).
The cell membrane, whose importance had always been underestimated by scientists, holds the key to the mechanism which translates environmental signals into specific. This membrane, which is so thin that it was not even visible before the development of the electron microscope in the 1960s, effectively functions as the engine of the cell. It has been proven through studies that once the cell membrane is destroyed then the cell itself is destroyed and dies. The membrane thus contains the intelligence center of the cell and has in it hundreds of thousands of switches which determine all the behaviors of the cell. Cell activities therefore originate from the cell membrane while genes are blueprints that activated by signals that start from the cell membrane (Lipton, 2010).
According to Lipton the interplay of genes, proteins and hormones has an important function at the gates of the cell membrane since it is where consciousness and matter get to interact. Thus by controlling and changing our subconscious programming, we can influence the workings of the cell membrane, making us not mere victims of our genes but rather the masters of our fate. It is not the genes that control life but rather the cell membrane, being the physical structure that stands between the internal and the external self and which is key to the reading, internalization and interpretation of environmental cues and the generation of the appropriate responses that enable the cell to not only function but also survive. Lipton thus challenged this long held notion about what it is that controls the behavior of cells.
In the fourth chapter Lipton delves into the issues of quantum physics and biology. He posits that though Physics may be the foundation of all sciences, since Einstein concluded that E=MC2 the knowledge and findings of quantum physics for long been largely ignored by biology and medicine. The reason for this has been that these findings do not quite within the matter-based world of Newtonian physics on which the traditional study of biology is based (Lipton, 2010).
Quantum physics shows that the physical body or matter can and is affected by immaterial matter or the mind since they cannot be separated. It shows that the universe is a dynamic and indivisible fusion of energy and matter. Doctors of medicine are however trained to disregard or look down upon alternative treatments which consider the influence of energy fields on physiology and health such as acupuncture, massage therapy, prayer and others. Compared to new biology, conventional or traditional research completely ignored the role energy plays in health and disease. However, the quantum physics perspective shows us that the universe is an integration of interdependent and related energy fields, constantly interacting with one another in a holistic system of information pathways (Lipton, 2010).
Understanding energy fields is thus important for medicine, since vibrational frequencies can be used to alter the physical and chemical properties of an atom just as physical signals such as histamine and estrogen can. Recent research into mapping protein to protein interactions in cells has clearly demonstrated the physical presence of the complex holistic pathways theorized by quantum physics. It has also been found that electromagnetic frequencies can be several hundred times more efficient in relaying environmental information than oft-held physical signals such as hormones and neurotransmitters(Lipton, 2010).
In Chapter five, Lipton deals directly with the impact of belief on biology. Here he looks at the separate roles played by subconscious and conscious mind. The conscious mind is mostly responsible for positive, creative and productive thoughts while the subconscious deals with more abstract experiences and its actions may not be governed by reasoning, having to rely entirely on previous experiences. This may be negative or positive. In many animals the subconscious reasoning takes charge of all brain activity. The perceptions that a person holds are capable of influencing their behavior. They are strongly held and become part of the truth as the person perceives it and become sort of hard wired into the person, regardless of whether they are true or not. These perceptions become beliefs that can then, according to Lipton, control that person’s biology. Thoughts, which can be considered as energy can motivate, activate or inhibit a cell’s function and they can therefore directly influence how the physical brain controls the body’s physiological activities (Lipton, 2010).
He looks at the example of the placebo effect where a “fake” drug has the same effect as a genuine chemical composition as it is the mind’s influence that causes the actual healing from a belief that the ingested “drug” will have the desired healing effect. Thus harnessing the power of the mind can be more effective than any drugs that we have been led to believe are able to heal us. We have the ability to consciously evaluate our responses to various stimuli even when our minds are filled with false and negative beliefs but to do so will require our ability to confront a very powerful subconscious mind (Lipton, 2010).
According to Lipton, medicine is unable to account for numerous mind-body connections such as the experience of people walking over live coals and not getting burnt while those that are not strong enough believers get burnt. There have also been cases of miraculous recoveries by patients suffering from terminal illnesses such as cancers in the absence of any proven medical intervention. Mind-body connection is where all the explanations for these phenomena can be found.
Chapter 6 looks at the issues of growth and protection behaviors. Cells respond in different ways to contrasting environmental stimuli. When faced with a lethal environment, they withdraw or go into a protective mode and when they are confronted with a positive and flourishing environment they tend to gravitate towards the signals that assure them of growth or life sustenance. These protection and growth reactions are the ones that ensure the survival of multicellular organisms even in hazardous circumstances. The mechanisms of protection and nurture or growth however all take their toll on the active life of the cell and therefore concentration on one leads to a depletion of resources to be dedicated to the other. Thus, though the body of cells has the ability to have these functions going on simultaneously, such activity results in stress which ultimately leads to a reduction in vitality. According to Lipton, research has shown that all the major illnesses are related to some sort of chronic stress situation as a cause or a significant contributory factor. Therefore in order to improve the vitality of life it is important to look at the issues that cause stress in us. For example if fear is what stops one from living a fuller life then the combating and conquering of the fear is the first step towards improving our quality of life (Lipton, 2010).
In the final chapter Lipton looks at the importance of conscious parenting. According to him parents have influence over all aspects of their children’s development and growth right from when they are in the womb. The influence of the environment and the environmental factors that they come into are the most important determinants of a child will come out in the end, and they play an even greater role in this than any genetic factors. He recognizes that for us and our children, genes are only the potential or the starting point, not the destiny. Parents therefor have the power and ability to genetically engineer their offspring by providing their subconscious minds with positive, creative and healthy messages. Adults also have the ability to take control of their lives by battling with and overpowering any remnants of negative thoughts and beliefs that may hold them back(Lipton, 2010).
According to Lipton we can be our own worst enemies by allowing the negative and harmful thoughts and beliefs in our subconscious to get the better of us. In the past conventional treatments such as drugs and talk therapy have made it possible for people to turn their lives around for the better and make as well as use positive energy in their lives. This ability is also extended to being able to determine better brighter and more positive outcomes in the lives of our offspring as a result of positive and creative messaging and interactions. Research continues to show how even the environment in the womb can form a good starting point in influencing and positively impacting the life of a child in terms of temperament, personality and higher thought – and this ability is present and available for harnessing in all of us.
In conclusion therefore we can see that through his book Lipton makes the necessary and often downplayed link between science and spirit. He is of the opinion that people receive information from an environmental controller in the form of the spirit. The experiences that we have in life are sent back and forth to the spirit and influence how the rest of our life and its outcomes.
Lipton, B. H. (2010). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter &
Miracles. Retrieved August 13, 2013, from