Biology of Belief, The – Review
Publisher: Mountain of Love/Elite Books
Cover: Robert Mueller
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/3/2006
Summary: Highly Recommended. The new ground of biology and quantum physics explained in extraordinarily clear language.
The concept is extraordinarily simple. So simple that you wonder why no one has thought of it before. Of course, some have thought of it before. The concept is garbled in a host of religious and mystical creeds, sandwiched between broad generalities of faith and practice. But the genesis is neither clear nor generally circulated. Bruce Lipton, in THE BIOLOGY OF BELIEF, has remedied the clarity and circulation problem. The simplicity problem remains however. On the conceptual level, you tell yourself that nothing this simple can be true. Yet. . . .
The concept in one sentence: of the 50 trillion or so cells making up the human body, each cell is an entity with its own, individual creation, reproduction and death cycles. To fully grasp the significance, perhaps we must compare the cell to a fully functional human. Life, reproduction and death cycles. But there is another ingredient. Just as we as individuals respond to our environment–temperature, light, air quality, etc.–so too do individuals cells. In fact, as Lipton points out, “for the first three billion years of evolution, single cells were the only organisms on this planet”. They were life. Evolution–evolution in terms of organisms becoming more complex to sustain and perpetuate existence–brought about co-dependence of cells and specialization. Cells joining together to form more complex organism meant that cells could survive longer. Cells specializing–exchanging metabolic waste for oxygen, transmitting electrical signals, acting as barriers against life threatening externals–meant that cell groups could survive longer within groupings.
The biology is elegant. The implications, as Lipton explores on a somewhat perfunctory level, are staggering. He cites a few specific instances (pages 106 and 107) in which a drug designed to treat one illness has side effects indicative of another illness. In short, the blunt instrument treatment of one disease with the equivalent of a medicinal hammer affects neighboring cell which are not diseased or involved in an illness. Accepting the singular existence of a cell within a community of cells makes it easy to understand the “side affects” of medicine. As Lipton points out, all illnesses, from the most complex, such as the common cold, to the most complex, such as diabetes, starts with one single cell.
If we imagine the human body as an inverted pyramid in which one cell builds upon the function of another, how far can we take the concept to explain consciousness? Lipton makes a surprising and pleasant detour when addressing this issue.
Essentially, the subconscious mind is processing some 20,000,000 environmental stimuli per second. The conscious mind is aware of 40 environmental stimuli. (An analogy from aother book to be reviewed on this same subject compares conscious awareness to a crack in a damn in which only a trickle of water comes through). With these facts in mind, or facts similar, the obvious question is what is the conscious mind missing by not being aware of the other 99% of events in the environment. Lipton says that the two minds–the subconscious and conscious mind-are an operating system. The subconscious processes stimuli at an automatic level, freeing the conscious to focus on stimuli not requiring an automatic response. In other words, we could suppose that 99% of the stimuli reaching us does not really require our attention. We will survive, for the most part, by letting the automatic system handle it. As a result, if one cell in the body turns cancerous, the subconscious may be aware of it, but the information is not significant to the conscious mind at the moment. If millions of cells turn cancerous, the effects may start to intrude into the conscious mind. On another level, the subconscious mind can take over learned tasks, such as engaging the appropriate physical responses to control a car while we engage in a conversation with a passenger. We can focus our awareness on the passenger and conversation and let the subconscious mind deal with the minutia of controlling the car. But this operating system of awareness begs a larger question: what is the conscious mind so focused on that it can afford to ignore 99% of the stimuli reaching it?
The functional goal of a single cell is to exist as long as possible. The conglomerate of cells making up a person is also to live as long as possible. So again, we return to the analogy of an inverted pyramid to illustrate both the organization and priorities of the human biological system. Somewhere in, around or at a distance from that system is the conscious mind. The environmental impact upon the physical biological system is a given. What impact does environment play upon the conscious mind? Be forewarned, this could be a trick question.
Lipton tops off this approach to the biological system of humans with the conclusion that the mind is the pinnacle of functionality of our conglomerate cells. No where does it explicitly state such, but it is inferred. For instance, he writes on page 166, “Before the evolution of the conscious mind, the functions of animal brains consisted only of those that we link with the subconscious mind”. He presents a very strong case for the dominance of environment in the confluence of environment and genetics upon intellectual and personality development, giving due recognition to the underlying biological processes affecting intellect and personality. Up until the age of 12 years, children spend most of their existence in the Alpha waves mental state–brain wave activity with a frequency of between 8-12 HZ. This state of “calm consciousness” is the state in which we learn, plucking knowledge and skills from our surroundings, our environment. After 12 years, the brain slips more easily into a Beta waves state of 12-35 HZ. The Beta wave state is characterized by “‘focused consciousness'”, also a learning state but with selectivity. Lipton uses the existence of the Alpha state in children to bolster his contention that the personality formation which started in the womb continues after birth and the formation is primarily directed by environmental influences.
It is when he addresses the erroneous assumption that genetics dictate personality and intellectual development that he returns to the fundamental issue of volition–the conscious mind influencing environment. This is the flip-side of the environment-shapes-life coin.
In the Epilogue, titled “Spirit and Science”, Lipton writes, “I had spent years studying molecular control mechanisms within the physical body and at that astounding moment came to realize that the protein ‘switches’ that control life are primarily turned on and off by signals from the environment…the Universe”.
Lipton states quite convincingly that our experience as persons is shaped from the moment we are conceived in the womb. Genetics constitution plays a very small role in the defining what we become. Environment is everything, including the environment of the womb itself. It is within the womb that the subconscious mind is programmed to filter and process stimuli. Genetics and cells are the scaffolding, plumbing and conduits. By the time we reach consideration of the conscious mind, we have expanded beyond the immediate environment of the womb, parental nurturing, air and light quality to something called the Universe. It is here that Lipton essentially leaves his extraordinary analysis of quantum biology.
TH BIOLOGY OF BELIEF is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the direction in which the traditional life sciences are headed. Lipton has written an exceptionally clear discussion on a subject he obviously fascinated by. His enthusiasm comes through.
For some reading the book, it is unavoidable to be reminded of the old arguments of nature versus nurture in considering the most important influences upon human development. Lipton and others are redefining the parameters of the argument. No longer is human development a matter of a nature dictated (genetics) course or nurture (environment) influence, but a combination of the two. For the spiritually oriented, the question of ‘to what end’, who or what is orchestrating the energies of life, death and life-that question is still on the table. While Lipton concludes with God, as in Universe, the ultimate answer may be as close as examining the shape of your hand.