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Biology of Belief? Bruce Lipton Reviewed

Updated on February 19, 2015

The Book, Taking Science Elsewhere

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Is Bruce Lipton A Quack?

What seems to bother so many people - while exciting others - is that Bruce Lipton makes claims that go far beyond what we know so far about epigenetics. Life-changing discoveries turn us on, right? Is dangerous to promise too much?

What's challenging here is separating an exciting, new area of research from the questionable claims of its author and considering both honestly.

That's what my review of Dr. Bruce Lipton's The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles does.

Recommended on PBS by Wayne Dyer

Because of that, I was excited about this book and read it before I heard anyone refer to Bruce Lipton as a quack.

I bought a copy, written by the former academic epigeneticist with high expectations. What I'd heard about epigenetics suggested breakthroughs as exciting as anything else of current interest in biology.

Briefly, for newcomers, epigenetics is a newer scientific discipline that studies the effects of external factors influencing the proteins that control gene expression. It's sort of like an not well-known driver at the wheel of our lives.

As usual, my choice was an audio book, a great advantage because Dr. Lipton reads his own text as a series of lectures organized, initially, around stimulating ideas about cell biology and genetics.

Sadly, halfway through, he breaks his promise, abandoning scientific objectivity and careening far off track.

His enthusiasm for the the potentials suggested by discoveries in epigenetics ring clear in his voice, with also a nice touch of self-deprecating humor.

Although not considered a leader in the field or the rebel pioneer he portrays himself as, Bruce Lipton was an early theorist and experimenter in epigenetics, a term that means literally that which is "above" or "ahead" of genetics.

His Biology of Belief elaborates on the details before spinning off into the unsupported New Age-style claims that lead so many to call him a "quack."

Bruce Lipton Criticism, The Biology of Belief

Bruce Lipton's science, as explored in The Biology of Belief, is exceptionally accessible for lay readers.

He's good at helping us understand the complex machines that control our cells and has a refreshing sense of wonder at the miracle we know as human life.

Unfortunately, he is not so good at extending his ideas into the new age purveyors with whom he has become closely aligned.

Given a choice, I'd recommend reading the first half of this book and throwing away the rest.

The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles

Lipton explains his ideas about how proteins surrounding cells are critical in determining which genes fired in the constant daily activity of replication convincingly.

This frees us from the tyranny of DNA. DNA, in Lipton's view, is nothing more than a set of instructions to be wielded creatively by other forces, not the physically dominant entities of mainstream science.

That said and agreed that, as a novice, I learned a great deal and had my eyes opened by in first half of the book, but I wish Lipton had stopped right there while his credibility was high and his ideas exciting.

Over the remainder of The Biology of Belief, Lipton positions himself as an unyielding determinist (I am tempted to say "quack.") and, then, gets lost trying to position himself as a New Age rock star.

After exhausting his ideas in a series of enjoyable, informative lectures, he turns to thinly disguised shilling for Rob Williams Psych K ideas. If he didn't get paid for what amounts to little more than pitching a product (and doing it badly), he's a fool, and if he did, then he's a fraud for not saying so.

The wheels start to come off when Lipton dives - well, not really head first, maybe wallet first - into theories about the subconscious and what he believes is its inflexible control over our lives.

You'll be shocked, I hope, to learn that your unconscious mind is a "tape player," an analogy repeated with annoying regularity, but you'd be even more shocked to find that the first five years of your life and, maybe, longer were passed in a sort of coma in which your tape players were loaded up with data from the external environment.

You then simply began to play back what you recorded.

Read the book, if you think I'm exaggerating.

No, better yet, don't read or listen to the book. You'll encourage him to write more.

I'm no fan of those who persistently refer to our minds as mechanistic or "wired." That's a reduction loaded with error.

A brain is spongy, pliable and connected in multiple directions at once. When anyone can point out a single wire, metallic and relatively rigid, I'll rethink and stop cringing when I read that stuff in the media.

Dr. Lipton sees, at least your subconscious, as nothing more.

After finishing with the main content of The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton goes on to explain that these internal tape players, known to the rest of us as the "subconscious," are virtually running our lives with little voluntary action from us.

He does allow, however, that there are a variety of obscure remedies and therapies that can set us free. This is where he grabs your nose and drags you into the Psych K pitch.

But if you don't buy the base story, you're not going to bother with the cures. Still, maybe that's just your tape player talking.

(By now, you're probably wondering what the hell this has to do with epigenetics. The answer is "nothing." It's more than likely just an extra wrinkle added to get Bruce Lipton a few more dimes.)

The coup de grace in dismantling his own credibility is when Lipton fires up a sleep-inducing potpourri of claimed connections between, as far as I could gather, intention-influenced proteins that play master to our genes, the tape players, and world peace of a kind even a peace activist like me can't recognize.

The concluding presentation in Bruce Lipton's The Biology of Belief was all over the place and seemingly geared to attract an undiscriminating New Age crowd yearning for a better, more enlightened and loving world.

And toward making Lipton the rock star he failed to be come in academia.A shame that Bruce Lipton, a pioneering scientist with an enlightened approach that defies orthodoxy, would become so lost in fields, such as psychology, in which he is clearly untrained and sounds like the freshman who suddenly discovers quantum physics and believes, with this knowledge, he has obtained the secret for penetrating the deepest corners of reality.

The path is more crowded and heavily traveled than he imagines.

 

Recommended Reading - Some Legitimate Ways To Learn More About Epigenetics

If you're turned off by Bruce Lipton's New Age speculation, don't let it turn you off to an exciting area of new discovery. Even if it doesn't turn you off, you'll gain by learning even more.

Getting to Know the New Science Objectively

The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance
The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance

An introduction to the fascinating new field Bruce Lipton tries to exploit through exaggerated and untested claims.

 
Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance
Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance

Epigenetics concerns the outer shell proteins that act a messengers to the constantly busy genetics in our cells. We know it happens, but it's still a mystery how.

 

Conclusion

Bruce Lipton deftly shares his insights in the new science of epigenetics, putting things in easy to understand layman terms.

His claims of being a cutting edge pioneer are dubious, and he errs when he takes the science beyond what we really know into New Age speculation.

He's worth reading though, with some discretion.

© 2011 David Stone

What do you think?

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    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @travis-blackney: Those who have called Lipton a "quack" (I didn't) may be overstepping and over-employing a killer cliché, when it comes to epigenetics. As I wrote, his conclusions in that field are exciting, although his claim to be a victimized pioneer are bogus. That's marketing nonsense. Scientists and writer who don't have the advantage of the Hay House marketing machine at their disposal writer more interesting detailed explanations about the topic without whining about being picked on. In reality, the field is getting a lot of attention because of its promise. It really has not critics. But to hear Lipton tell it, he is such a pioneer, the "establishment" is out to get him. That is rubbish. Where he becomes a quack, in my opinion is when he ventures into fields, developmental psychology to be specific, in which he is untrained and unqualified, but equally unrestrained in his claims, most of which seem geared to pull readers over to the Psych K movement. Epigenetics doesn't carry well over that bridge and he bastardizes his own area of expertise by taking it down the traditional Hay House road of magical conclusion without anywhere near enough evidence.Finally, whether you comical claim that genetic determinism is rubbish (So, how come I look like my dad, then?) is supportable does nothing to verify Lipton's claim. It's a debating trick. As to your equally funny claim that Lipton is "opening up new pages for scientific enquiry," he has done no such thing. He pioneered nothing. He simply tried to take epigenetics from where the knowledge was a decade ago when he dropped out and parlay it into a bestseller, using marketing tactics in place of objective science. As you know, misusing science to dumb it down for sales, greased by outlandish claims, isn't pioneering. It's what publishers have done for a century or more.

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      travis-blackney 3 years ago

      Calling Bruce Lipton a 'quack' is an incredibly truncated and demeaning view of his work. His 'overstepping' is what we may call his own beliefs; you don't have to believe them, but you are free to inquire upon them. Falsifiable or not, we all have beliefs that require their own internal method of inquiry, and this is something we must carry out for our entire lives. You essentially label Lipton's 'new-age' theories as rubbish, well, so are the conventional beliefs around genetic determinism. It doesn't matter if he is wrong at the end, he is simply opening up new pages for scientific enquiry... vilifying Bruce Lipton by calling him a quack does not come across to me as a good review.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @Nancy Hardin: Convoluted it is, Nancy, and hairy once he goes around the bend in the second half.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Oh WOW! You really tell it like it is here Dave! You dissected this book thoroughly and shared it with us so well. I'm not sure I understand or even WANT to understand his thinking, it seems a bit convoluted to me. Thank you for sharing your view of this book.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 4 years ago

      I like what he says about seeing cells as "little people" - as in being guided by intention. Consciousness sources that intention; this I know subjectively, but can't prove it. That's as far as I watched the video and I haven't read any of his books. I do know it's very difficult to bridge the gap between science and the presence of God; I give Bruce Lipton credit for trying. His intention is good :)

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      This is all new to me. But good on you for recognizing New Age nonsense and rejecting it. Keep thinking! :)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Dear Dave Stone,You have really exposed your self as fraudulent science writer: "His Biology of Belief elaborates on the details before spinning off into the unsupported New Age-style claims that led so many to call him a "quack."" Then his peers are not in agreement. Neither was Einsteins or Galileos. They were alone with the truth. Science is not decided by a vote, but based on the evidence, did you know that? These you have not looked at, but repeat the common one liner we know so well. Study the history of science, and you will see were you belong. Berthold Brecht made a great play about Galileo, and the learned did not want to look into the telescope, because they knew all about Aristotles. In the scene was a little boy, who ridiculed them, for the child sees who have clothes on, and spell it out.By all means be a skeptic, they go 120 on the dozen, all you get out of them, is just this kind of one-liners. I have no opinion about Bruce Lipton, other than that I saw his lecture on u-tube. I am an electrical engineer, and we always think in electrical signals and energy, not billiard balls, construed by imagination. Matter as the senses show us is an illusion, so are particles, if you have reflected over the implication of double slit. Lipton refers to his past and why he changed direction, seemed common like sense. Those tests should be easy to a repeat, and the statement that nucleus and DNA is not brain of the cell, but the membrane, that indeed receive signals from the blood stream., and is effected by fear and love.Indeed every point he lists up could be duplicated and tested. Did you check if other researcher have done so. Not even that, and you call yourself a science writer? You are just a museum guard. Some time ago I (66) took part in a conference, and a young quite brilliant student asked some simple questions to the scientific establishment, and I have never seen anything worse in my life. They did not reply, they character assassinated this young man, and they sounded like you. To their surprise he kept his cool, and kept asking extremely interesting questions. He was asked to leave, it looked like an Al Gore book signing, where thugs threw out an Irish journalist, that also asked a few simple questions about polar bears. Gore: Ask the polar bear, like you a few one liner to evade the issue.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: JaqStone, epigenetics is an exciting new field, taken seriously for only about 20 years, but a good number of new research projects designed to register what really happens have been started. They will take years, and the results will be conservative. But we'll get a baseline to start from. It'll be interesting to watch.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for your honest review, Dave. I also found the scientific presentation fascinating and the new age rhetoric disappointing. The key for me, regardless of the material presented, is to turn within and ask "What's the truth here?" Of course, that is after doing some diligent research, both supportive and contradictory. The mind is a powerful tool if used with awareness but there is something else that we have within, a sensing mechanism that responds differently to truth, partial truth, or fallacy. I find that using the two together works best (for me) to draw the pearls of wisdom out of the mud of fantasy or belief. In the case of Bruce's work, I find it encouraging and plausible that our biology is flexible and responsive. I have seen this to be true on the experiential level but do not know how that experience impacted by genes. During a stroke event a shift from terror to trust and surrender altered my physical experience. Does that mean a change in my beliefs would change the cellular structure of my body? If that were the case, would we not see people who re-create their body to fit their idea of perfect health? Clearly more research is needed. The possibilities are exciting but nothing more if they can't be demonstrated.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: "It is true that the brain will only do what it has accepted as TRUE, REAL and what has been learned becomes UNCONSCIOUS and therefore to change it is ESSENTIAL that previous views, ideas and beliefs are questioned." That's demonstrably untrue, but it's unfortunately the nonsense Lipton tries to spin."The brain" is a complex organ that does what evolution designed it to do, essentially to enhance and protect human life. Everything is real. The idea that "what is learned becomes unconscious" is not consistent with real life experience. Consciously aware individuals review and assess what they've learned all the time. Believe in reality, Paul, as you observe it first, and go from there, but ignore the money-inspired hocus pocus of pop science. It demeans everyone who gets involved in it.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @David Stone1: Bruce is certainly desiring to be part of the Conceive, Believe and Achieve clan at Hayhouse Publishing and he has something positive to contribute.It is true that the brain will only do what it has accepted as TRUE, REAL and what has been learned becomes UNCONSCIOUS and therefore to change it is ESSENTIAL that previous views, ideas and beliefs are questioned. However when it comes to the PSYCH K stuff it does seem that it is another METHODOLOGY that is difficult to verify and I would like to BELIEVE.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: This is a book review, Marcia, and of course I've read the book title, and since titles are usually the product of the publisher, they don't carry weight for me. The contents do, and the first half was fascinating theoretically to a layman like me, but when he ran off on the Pych-K goofiness, it did read like a quack. But let's keep perspective. The basics he informs us about regarding epigenetics are well done and well explained, based on fact and rational conclusions until....

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Just read Lipton's book title and you'll know he's a quack!

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 4 years ago

      I am thinking that you are some kind of genius at this point. All I can say is.. take me to your leader.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: Thanks, Jack, for your exuberance and interesting reflection on the subject.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: This is one of the most refreshing views on existence I have read. Once humanity can adjust its Cynicism with an honest and loving respect for not only each other but also for our experiences, then we can get on with the real relation regarding the experience as such. Truth does not need to be justified nor indeed boxed amongst the theories that lessen the expanding of the experience. If it did have a wish as such maybe it is just to "experience" for the sake of such. If one could look upon this wonderful & colorful joy that "we" feel from the illusion of "outside" and that there is a constant sending/receiving in process regarding this "experience" ...................why? because it is desired. No need to dismantle but rather to have a clear & true vision with total regard for the "whole". How one feels or indeed believes is mirrored back and forth through outcomes within the realm of the experience. Once we start to enjoy the "experience" and stop taking it so seriously and trying to be "right" all the time we can touch, taste, feel & see the opportunities that abound..................... in the words of the great Austen Powers.. YEAH BABY!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Most people makes nasty comments...human understanding is limited...and those nasty pretender is saying what I don't understand cannot be...I am sorry for them.I am with you Bruce Lipton.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: Well, Greg, he does stir a lot of emotion both ways. I found what he had to say, absent the self-promotion, interesting an educational. I know enough to sort through it and learn something. When he went crazy off the Psych-K limb, I thought he just chewed up his own credibility and spit it out.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Don't listen to his shills, they only found this place because it comes up if you type "Dr. Bruce Lipton" into google. This guy is a quack, you may as well try casting magic spells if you believe any of his bullshit, thanks for calling him out as a fraud out for a quick buck at the expense of credibility.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 5 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: Funny, Visitor. That's what a review is an opinion. Get it?You're equating Bruce Lipton with Thomas Edison? And no, Edison was not considered a quack by his fellows. Nor did he claim to have pioneered inventions that were already in place ahead of him.I should read more "books/articles on quantum physics/mechanics..."? But I thought Lipton's field was biology. This may explain your confusion on the subject. I researched the biological (and psychological) basis for his claims. My mistake, I guess, I should have read about the goings on in the quantum universe, but I'm suspicious that Lipton wouldn't make any more sense there.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Everything that you have said of Bruce could be said of you. You do not site any proof of your allegations either scientific or " just your opinion". I am sure that Edison was also spoke of in these same terms. I think you should read more books/articles on quantum physics/ mechanics ... Or is that all " bunk" too.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 5 years ago from New York City

      @anonymous: Clark, I was thoroughly engrossed in what he had to say and his good intentions. Then, he went off the deep end with tape player nonsense and his pitches for psych k. He wrecked is own credibility and reduced his chances for having a more profound influence. It was really disappointing to have such insight followed by such nonsense.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      As someone who has personally known Bruce for 25 years, watching and listening to him as this book had developed I can tell you that he is an honest and good man not out for a buck but actually trying to provide a better outlook on how we view our lives. I appreciate your criticism and see that in your view it is very possible to come to your conclusions. He inspires many people to take control of there lives and create a better one not full of excuses or blame.