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The New Biology
One of the most popular clips of Lipton is called "The New Biology: Where Mind and Matter Meet by Bruce Lipton Ph.D". The skeptical blog "Spirituality is No Excuse" has documented and criticized the bad science in Lipton's presentation. Some specific claims Lipton makes are:
The cell as a microcosm of the human body
Lipton's whole argument relies on making the reader draw a parallel between the body and a cell -- that you can understand how a cell works by making analogies with how a body works. He states:
With all the magnificent machinery that we call the human body, there is no new function that's present in your human body that's not already present in every single cell. You have a digestive system, a respiratory system, etc, so does a cell.
Then he pushes things even further: humans live in communities; and in biology, multicellular organisms are sometimes described as "colonies of cells". There is a good biological basis for describing a human as a colony of cells, but there is no reason at all to believe that you can learn about cells from drawing analogies with human societies. But this is exactly where Lipton's reasoning takes him, when he goes on to deduce the cause of cancer:
If a cell doesn't listen to the community's voice, then the cell is not part of the community. Cancer cells have withdrawn from the community. They're still in there but they're not listening to the voice of the community. They're doing their own thing. Why would some cells get out of the community? And the answer is why are people homeless? Why are people out of work, or why are people out of work or why are people suffering? If their community is not supporting them at some point the cells recognize at some point "My God what do I want to be in this for?" So there's a point that cancer starts to recognize as a result of break down of the community.
This is not a simplification to explain a carefully developed theory grounded in cell biology. This IS the theory. It's an assertion which has simply been presented as fact, and the entire proof relies on the listener accepting the analogy as proof.
The brain of the cell
He makes it look as if biologists have in fact been searching for an actual "brain of the cell", thus setting up a straw man argument. Science, he notes, is male dominated; men think with their testes, and that's why scientists concluded that the cell nucleus, full of genetic material like the testes, must be the "brain of the cell".
Having convinced the audience that scientists believe the nucleus is the brain of the cell, Lipton boldly sets out to demolish that straw man. He argues that this can't possibly be the case, because cells can live for months in a dish after they've had their nucleus taken out, but human bodies die without a brain. Therefore, scientists are wrong when they claim the nucleus is the brain of the cell.
Science doesn't, in fact, predict that all chemical reactions will cease as soon as the nucleus is removed. Lipton must have been snoozing when the role of the nucleus and DNA in cell division was being explained.
The primacy of DNA
Having failed to disprove a nonexistent theory, Lipton turns his attention to debunking an even more important non-existent theory: The "Primacy of DNA". Note that all the top items on Google for this search are a bunch of articles in New Age journals. This is how he describes it:
So our belief in the primacy of DNA says this. Who you are, what you are, is predetermined in the blueprint, the DNA. So you become a read-out of the DNA.
This is also completely and utterly wrong. Biology has not reached any such conclusion, as can be seen by glancing at any field of biology at all.
You're controlled by your perceptions
Lipton thinks that the brain of the cell is the cell membrane, since it's through the membrane that the cell gets messages from the environment, which ultimately originate in our beliefs. (He's pointed out elsewhere that the word even contains "-brane".)
He "demonstrates" this by a very simple technique: he takes an accepted scientific term, gives a complicated scientific explanation of its meaning, and then pushes that word through a series of redefinitions. Each of these steps is based on his idea of the cell as a microcosm of the human being — that any attribute a human being has, must also be found in a cell.
He relabels chemical interactions that take place at the cell membrane as "perception". He relabels chemical interactions that take place inside the cell as "behavior". Then he jumps to the conclusion that the cells' perceptions and our perceptions are linked, and since our perceptions depend on our beliefs, then there is a chain of causality from our beliefs to cellular activity.
This would imply that our beliefs cause any medical problem we might have of a genetic nature, and likewise our beliefs can heal such problems. According to Lipton, by changing our beliefs we can can even cure cancer.
This is coming from a man who spends a lot of this lecture bashing mainstream science for supposedly thinking genes "control everything". Science does not hold such a reductionist, one dimensional and idiotic position. But Lipton does. All he has done is replace a non-existent belief in the primacy of DNA with a vastly more stupid, and sadly very existent and very dangerous belief in the Primacy of Belief.
Note that he actually goes through the motions of discussing biochemistry in front of his audience, with the purpose or making his presentation sound really sciency. His listeners are left with the impression that they understand science, and that science says that all that complicated cell chemistry basically boils down to the analogy cell-body, to the simplistic causality chain: beliefs => perceptions => cell behavior.
- Bruce Lipton
- Insight into Cellular "Consciousness" by Dr. Bruce Lipton
- Bruce Lipton: Quack, Creationist, Buffoon, PhD
- "The New Biology: Where Mind and Matter Meet - Part 1 of 2
- Motivational Biology with Dr. Bruce Lipton, Cancer Quack
- "The Primacy of DNA"
- Energy Therapy: The Primacy of DNA
- Challenging the Primacy of DNA: How our beliefs control our biology
- Crystal Jeter, "Five Misconceptions in Genetics"
- Epigenetics: It Doesn't Mean What Quacks Think It Means
- Michael Allen, Misconceptions in Primary Science: "It is important to note that with epigenetic alteration the genes themselves do not change, merely the chromosomes where the genes are located, which causes genes to either 'switch on' or 'switch off.'"
- Bruce Lipton: "Mind Over Genes: The New Biology"