This month’s topic is a book review of The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce Lipton, PhD. “This book is an absolute must read if you want to know, from a scientific view point, that your lifestyle is in control of your health rather than your genetics,” according to reviewer M.T Morter, Jr., D.C. Bruce Lipton writes extremely clearly, and makes complex scientific information totally understandable to the layperson. And he does it with a great sense of humour. You can tell from reading the book that Bruce Lipton is a wonderful professor and teacher!
Actually there is much more to this book than the evidence that the environment plays a more important role in our health than our genes (which, by itself, is a huge take-home message). It goes further, to explain how we can lead happy, healthy lives. “The Biology of Belief is not a self-help book; it is a self-empowerment book.”
Chapter 1. Lessons from the petri dish: in praise of smart cells and smart students.
“Smart” cells are discussed, including why and how they can teach us so much about our own minds and bodies. Each nucleus-containing cell (a eukaryote) possesses all the functions of a human, including the functional equivalent of our nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, excretory system, endocrine system, muscles and skeletal systems, circulatory system, integument (skin), reproductive system and even a primitive immune system. These smart cells live with intent and purpose; they actively seek environments that support their survival, while avoiding toxic or hostile ones. They are capable of learning through their experiences, and can create cellular memories which they pass on to their offspring.
When cells band together, they create structured environments and subdivide the workload with “more precision and effectiveness than the ever-changing organizational charts that are a fact of life in big corporation.” In other words, communities of cells cooperated, which Lipton notes flies in the face of Charles Darwin’s emphasis on a “struggle for existence.”
Lipton, teaching these concepts to a class of medical students in Montserrat in the mid-1980’s observed that as he emphasized the cooperative nature of communities of cells, his class became a strong team where the stronger students helped the weaker ones, so that they all became stronger. This was a major change from the usual dog-eat-dog mentality of the medical students he was accustomed to teaching in the US.
Chapter 2. It’s the environment, stupid.
This chapter provides the scientific evidence that genes do not control biology, and also introduces the reader to the discoveries of epigenetics (which means “control above genetics”), a new field of research that is demonstrating how the environment (nature) influences the behaviour of cells without changing the genetic code.
However, the discovery of DNA’s genetic code led scientists away from considering environmental influences for many years. While there are diseases like Huntington’s chorea and cystic fibrosis that can be blamed on one faulty gene, single-gene disorders affect only about 2% of the population. Most diseases are the result of complex interactions among multiple genes and environmental factors. Genes are often identified as being correlated with a disease; this is often mistaken for “causation.”
The extremely important role of proteins is described. We have 100,000 plus different proteins which are strings of amino acid molecules with flexible links. The functions of cells are derived from the movements of their protein “gears.” The movement generated by assemblies of proteins provides the functions that enable life.
The Human Genome Project was a global scientific project begun in the late 1980s to create a catalogue of all the genes present in humans. It turned out to be an important step in the demise of the theory of the “primacy of DNA.” Conventional thought held that the body needed one gene to provide the blueprint for each of the 100,000 plus different proteins that make up our bodies. In addition there would be at least 20,000 regulatory genes, which orchestrate the activity of the protein-encoding genes. Scientists concluded that the human genome would contain a minimum of 120,000 located with the 23 pairs of human chromosomes.
With a degree of shock that Lipton compares to that regarding the discovery that the world is round, scientists discovered that, contrary to their expectation of over 120,000 genes, the entire human genome consists of fewer than 25,000 genes. That is, more than 80% of the presumed and “required” DNA does not exist!
“The missing genes proved to be more troublesome than the missing eighteen minutes of the Nixon tapes.” (p.32)
Further, it had been known for some time that cells can live without their DNA. They cannot reproduce, or repair damage occurring within the cell, but barring any severe damage they can continue to function well.
“So the nucleus is not the brain of the cell – the nucleus is the cell’s gonad! Confusing the gonad with the brain is an understandable error because science has always been and still is a patriarchal endeavor. Males have often been accused of thinking with their gonads, so it’s not entirely surprising that science has inadvertently confused the nucleus with the cell’s brain!” (p. 36)
Epigenetics (control above genetics) changes our understanding of how life is controlled in a major way. Epigenetic research has established that DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in concrete at birth. “Genes are not destiny!” Environmental influences including nutrition, stress and emotions can modify genes without changing their basic blueprint, and those modifications can be passed on to future generations as surely as DNA.
Chapter 3. The magical membrane.
The membrane is the “skin” of the cell, and over 20 years ago, Lipton concluded that the membrane was, in fact, the true brain of the cell, and not just to hold the cytoplasm together as had been thought. He illustrates the functioning of the 3 layer membrane using a bread and butter sandwich with olives with and without pimentos. The olives without pimentos selectively allow nutrients through the 3 layers of the membrane (it is a semiconductor) to the cytoplasm (the plate). It’s not quite that simple – you need to read the description for yourself.
Only in the last 20 years has the importance of the cell’s membrane become widely accepted by scientists. The olives in Lipton’s demonstration are actually proteins, called Integral Membrane Proteins (IMPs), and studying the way IMPs work has become a field of its own called “signal transduction.” Lipton provides an entertaining account of his realization that the cell membrane is a homologue of the (programmable) computer chip, i.e. it is a structural and functional equivalent. The second important insight is that the programmer lies outside the computer/cell.
Chapter 4. The new physics: Planting both feet firmly on thin air.
Lipton relates the story of his relatively recent introduction to quantum physics and his discovery of its huge relevance to biology and medicine. He notes that the conventional medical establishment has not yet incorporated quantum physics into its research or medical school training, with tragic results. You may have heard the statement that everything is energy. This is an elementary understanding of quantum physics. Interactions between matter and energy are complex and impossible to describe in a paragraph or two.
Chapter 5. Biology and belief.
Positive thoughts have an enormous effect on behaviour, but only when they are in agreement with subconscious programming. Negative thoughts have an equally powerful effect. By recognizing how these positive and negative beliefs control our biology, we can use this knowledge to create the healthy, happy lives that may have been illusive. The conscious mind is creative, it can see the past and the future. It can think in abstract terms, and solve problems. The subconscious mind is mainly a storage area of habitual responses, reactions, and beliefs – the ‘automatic pilot’ we find ourselves on when someone “pushes our buttons” by doing something we were taught at some point was not right, like leaving the top off the toothpaste tube.
Belief controls biology. The subconscious mind has more than a million times the processing capacity of the conscious mind, so it is bound to win in case of conflict. By definition, we are not aware of our subconscious mind and the programs running and making many of our decisions. The good news is that we can learn to rewrite programs in the subconscious that are disempowering. There are many methods available to accomplish this, and if you suspect you have subconscious beliefs that are holding you back, I can help you with this.
Lipton maintains that going through life wearing rose-coloured glasses is a good thing – happiness is necessary for our cells to thrive.
Chapter 6. Growth and protection
Conditions that are ideal for cells (and humans) to grow and flourish cannot operate optimally when the cell (or human) is in protective mode. One protection system deals with external threats with the “fight or flight” response. The second protection system is the immune system, which deals with internal threats such as bacteria and viruses. When the body is mobilized for the fight or flight response, the adrenal hormones directly repress the immune system to conserve energy reserves. It won’t help to fight bacteria if a lion would otherwise maul you! Lipton notes also that fear interferes with clear thinking, something many of us taking exams have no doubt experienced first hand.
“Letting go of our fears is the first step toward creating a fuller, more satisfying life.” (p. 124)
Chapter 7. Conscious parenting: Parents as genetic engineers
Parents’ influence on their children starts before they are born. There is increasing awareness of the importance of the prenatal environment to the physical and mental health of an infant after birth. It is at least as important as our genes. And, of course, parental influence continues after birth. Because children have predominantly lower frequency brain waves until about age 6 (0 – 2 delta waves, 3 – 6 theta waves), they absorb what they’re taught without filtering the information. This is necessary because of the enormous volume of information they must absorb. Where does this information go? To our subconscious minds. We’re programmed with these beliefs unless we make an effort to change them.
The intent is not to blame ourselves or our parents for any failures we/they were unaware of, especially given the focus on genetic determinism. Lipton revised his admonition to audiences that they were responsible for everything in their lives to:
“you are personally responsible for everything in your life, once you become aware that you are personally responsible for everything in your life.” (p.147)
Lipton’s challenge to the reader is:
“Let go of unfounded fears and take care not to implant unnecessary fears and limiting beliefs in your children’s subconscious minds. Most of all, do not accept the fatalistic message of genetic determinism. You can help your children reach their potential and you can change your personal life. You are not ‘stuck’ with your genes.” (p, 150)
Epilogue. Spirit and science
Lipton explains how his study of cell biology turned him from an agnostic scientist into a spiritual person who is optimistic about the fate of our planet. Throughout the book, he interjects information about the transformation of his personal life which parallels his scientific progress. He reminds us of the example of the Caribbean medical students who banded together, like the cells they studied, to form a community of successful students, and suggests we use them as role models for thriving, not just surviving.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.