Tuesday, November 3

The Biology of belief


Looking backwards in time my mind struggles to imagine how those first awakenings of self consciousness were played out in humanity’s journey of discovery. I rather think those first early insights will remain hidden forever in our oral history, in the evolving stories of dance, in the lyrical chants of the ancients or in the wondrous dreamland scenes carved on rock walls up to 60,000 years ago. Elkhonon Goldberg in ‘The Executive Brain’ suggests religious ideas about this time may have first emerged as we struggled to separate the thoughts we have about others are separate to those we think about. He suggests such self memories about a deceased person may have been attributed to the current spirit of that deceased person as it became a taboo custom to speak of the dead.

Before that momentous crossover into self consciousness much earlier a series of seismic events transformed our living planet to create nature’s vision splendor. The timing of those massive upheavals was necessarily precise to change our planetary environment to enable life’s previous abundant first single cell life to evolve into the multi celled life complexity we see today; as our planet temporarily appearing like Jupiter – totally wrapped in thick ice –then thawed to cause water to carve out the new landscape warmed by immense erupting volcanoes. Miraculously the planetary environment reached a state of equilibrium to give birth to the first evolved multi cell creatures some 650,000 years ago which are evident today in the fossilized imprints- as if just recently left in dried mud- in the thin layers of ancient rocks in the remote areas of what is known as the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

These insights into our past are only made possible by the evolution of our self consciousness which enables us to makes sense of such things; to ponder the sequential events needed for one single cell to become the trillions estimated to make up the human body. The mechanism to enable enjoyment of our enhanced understanding is in the architecture of our frontal lobes which allow us to retrieve information stored in the older ‘limbic’ areas of the brain for dynamic processing in the frontal lobes area coupled with repositories of self awareness. Elkhonon Goldberg in ‘The Executive Brain’

Interestingly just as these frontal lobes are our most recently evolved brain area they remain by far the most vulnerable or fragile to trauma and the onslaught of dementia which exhibits those frightening losses of cognitive memory ability. It is not that memory is lost in dementia patients but rather the circuitry connections to memory are either damaged or severed, - Eklhonon Goldberg ‘The Executive Brain’.
Self consciousness is thought to be only evident in humans and maybe in other highly developed life forms albeit such views continue to be debated and constrained by a lack of any known developed animal language.

Given our newly acquired self consciousness- an insatiable curiosity combined with unquenchable thirst for knowledge it is hardly surprising we have complex ever changing belief systems.

But with the onset of a scientific age of new discoveries to contradict many of the rigidly held religious ‘beliefs’ scientists became very wary of making any references to ‘beliefs’ in scientific discourses preferring to talk about concepts which were to be only to be accepted as science after stringent evidentiary validation.

Book Review- The Biology of Belief

The title of Bruce H Lipton’s (Ph.D.) book ‘The Biology of Belief’ aroused my interest- no doubt as was the author’s intention to engender for him a wider reader’s audience.
The author’s first watershed moment is vividly described in the Prologue when he was lecturing medical students in the Caribbean

I had resigned my tenured position at the University of Wisconsin’s School of medicine and was teaching at an offshore medical school in the Caribbean. Because the school was so far out of the academic mainstream, I started thinking outside the rigid parameters of belief that prevail in conventional academia. Far from ivory towers, isolated on an emerald island in the deep azure Caribbean Sea, I experienced a scientific epiphany that shattered my beliefs about the nature of life.
My Life changing moment occurred while I was reviewing research on the mechanisms by which cells control their physiology and behavior. Suddenly I realized that a cell’s lifer is controlled by the physical and energetic environment and not by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a ‘contractor’ who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a single cells ‘awareness‘of the environment, not its genes that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.

His book is an amalgam of the next 20 years of research and experience which I will attempt to engage sufficient portions so that you have some understanding of the nature of his findings.

Cells as Miniature Humans

He introduces to us to the idea that every cell in our body – and there are roughly 60 trillion of them – is a smart cell capable of fulfilling all of the known bodily functions we attribute to our mind and body as a whole. This intelligence is resident in the cell membrane and reacts to its physiology through controlling proteins able to override the genetically encoded DNA resident in the cell nucleus. That is to say that although the DNA which is resident in the cell nuclei does determine our pre programmed genetic characteristics their operation can be turned off and on by the controlling proteins within the cells membrane environment. Hence the author contends our ‘belief systems’ are instrumental in the control of our biological functioning rather than by genetic determinants. Lipton explains the trend scientifically towards genetic determinism was adopted since the discovery of genes provided the final missing link to show how Darwin’s species adaption’s or changes were all transferred genetically into each new evolved generation.

An analogy to help explain the Magical Cell membrane

Lipton uses the analogy of the test pattern appearing on old TV sets. Those of us old enough to remember will recall how a test pattern appeared on our TV sets once the day’s program’s came to closures traditionally after midnight.

Think of the pattern of the test screen as the pattern encoded by a given gene, say the one for brown eyes. The dials and switches, TV fine –tune the test screen by allowing you to turn it on or off and modulate a number of characteristics , including colour, hue, contrast, brightness, vertical and horizontal holds .By adjusting the dials, you can alter the appearance of the test pattern on the screen, while not actually changing the original broadcast pattern. This is the role of the regulatory proteins.

Waltzed through the ‘Magical Membrane’ and on to ‘The New physics; Planting both feet on thin Air”

Lipton waltzes his readers through chapters entitled ‘Magical Membrane’, and on to ‘The New physics: Planting both feet firmly on thin Air’; to introduce the dual wave -particle physics theory to understand how energy underpins his biological beliefs and to persuade us more research is needed into the fields of energy waves rather than what is currently disproportionately devoted to genes. The question one skeptic might immediately ask is would this approach risk ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ since it would signal a retreat away from genealogy which forms the mainstay applications of westernized based prescriptions. On a more general note however I think few would argue, not least of which, the inhabitants of developing nations, to say modern medical advances have ensured improved longevity and help enormously to maintain improved healthy sustainable lives. A visit to any impoverished nation reveals the extent to which provision of improved medical and mental health facilities with an array of prescriptive drugs has a beneficial improvement in the overall wellbeing of the population.

However I do not think the author risks ‘throwing out the baby out with the bathwater’ but I rather think the question might well be asked in reverse ‘has the westernized approach become guilty of putting too much faith in the genealogy? , or put another way ‘putting too many of its research dollars into one basket? As Lipton reminds us ever since Darwin’s species adaption’s or changes were thought to be conveniently verified via the modus operandam of genetically transferred information within the DNA of the cell nucleus into each new evolved generation, scientists have assumed this must represents the crucial frontier area to find future cures for such things as cancers and incurable disorders. Whilst it is true to say the environmental was accepted as playing a pivotal role in outcomes this was more generally attributed to the overall attitude of the mind and reactions to external stimuli rather than thought be equally present in the individual cell intelligence as suggested by Lipton.
The manufacturers and distributors of drugs found a powerful advocate in money motivation to direct disproportionate research efforts into the genealogy pool and away from other forms of research which may be far less drug dependant and be more successful without the dreaded side effects of prescription medicine.

Maybe we are at the crossroads where a more multi disciplinary approach offers the best future opportunities.
We can be optimistic that so called reliance in genetic determinism is almost dead in the water.

Positive thoughts and a conclusion

I think I am a positivist by nature but as the book moves into the realm of a personal empowerment treatise for living and loving, for me, I think his views are more intuitively driven than as a logical progression from earlier chapters. My point is a personal one and does not detract from the thrust of his inspirational message of self empowerment which will be met joyously by many less skeptical readers than me - particularly as he shares his own personal journey in tandem with his fascinating scientific treatise.
I should hasten to add I think intuition can play a pivotal role in many deliberations and does not diminish the validity of our outcomes but rather ads important new dimension to our everyday life. But what is intuitively true for some will not be so for others and for the teams that work together particularly in dynamic highly charged atmospheres, where intuition is no substitute for prior training and consultation. I was reminded of this factor when reading about the shortcomings of an ambulance emergency centre which relied too much on the intuition of its operators to determine the seriousness or otherwise of callers to allocate emergency status or otherwise to distressed cases with catastrophic results.

The author’s message is of hope and joy with an emphasis that nurturing of children is more important than their genealogy, that we can influence our outcomes by positive thoughts and what are fears already etched in sub conscious memory might be unlocked in conscious thought. They are aspects that many of us have long held to be true, but Lipton takes on an evangelical emphasis to encourage believers to no longer feel they are trapped in the rut imposed by the false belief we are constrained by a pre programmed genetic disposition.

But equally we know that the outcome does not always turn out as a positive as we might have hoped as we are confronted by children born or contacting an incurable chronic disorder who dies prematurely notwithstanding the loads of love nourished upon them so that it remains an enduring life mystery. The author does not broach such issues excepting to say that he thinks his biological way of thinking stands a better chance of finding a cure, by forging new frontiers into science.

The author’s admission that he has become a Spiritual scientist is oddly enough tucked away as an epilogue, was to me disappointing as I think he would be more effective is added to earlier discussions. His spiritual visions are lucid, concise and exciting as he asserts our life in not arbitrary as may have been inferred from Darwin and his successors but is rooted in a series of endless repeating patterns which depend upon co operation for survival. Those few cancerous cells lack housing and make up a minority who one day may no longer cause havoc as our cells membranes intelligence expands in conscious awareness sufficiently to ensure no damage can be done.

I would recommend this excellent book as fascinating reading for anyone with any interest in the cutting edge of biology – and wants to know why a spiritual scientist asserts our caring loving nature or otherwise is the spiritual energy source to have more of a profound influence on ourselves and others than we think – from the point of view of all of the combined energy evident in every cell in our body and the aggregate I am happy to call me.


Cartledge said...

Lindsay, following a conference we attended I have become increasingly aware of the need for interdisciplinary approaches to life. I thank you for that and see how the approach actually works in our continuing journey of discovery. Here you are looking at biological and nurturing influence, and I fully concur with your comments.
My friend over at http://redheadedwisdom.blogspot.com/, despite her current focus on building a new home, is deep into Jared Diamond and other potential biological influences. My son, against his own inclinations, has become fascinated by the events in Europe prior to 1914, and the enormous influence they had on 20th century events.
For my part I keep returning to what started as family history and morphed into a fascination with 1840’s radical Manchester UK, which threw my great great grandfather into the mix with the likes of Dickens, Marx and Engels.
Still, as you suggest, for any of those biological/genetic influences one still hopes for the potential of nurturing. That concept becomes more difficult to accept as more than a moderating factor, to my limited abilities of understanding. I am still trying to work out how a lump of flesh, fluids and salts, that concatenation of cells, can actually furnish the incredible tools which make us human in the first place.

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susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
I just want to say 'hello' for now and promise to come back and read this as properly as it deserves when I'm a bit fresher in mind and body. It appears to be very fascinating.
All the best.

Seraphine said...

i'm a big believer in placebos. especially in emotional matters, such as depression or nervousness. the mind itself is a wonderful healer, and thinking positive thoughts is a powerful mechanism.

mystikos said...

I am sorry it has taken so long to make my way back to your site. Thanks for providing the review. It reminds me a little bit of Candace Pert's Molecules of Emotion. It's been years since I read it - the kids were still babies. It is primarily about her discovery of neuropeptide receptors, but was secondarily about how political the science profession is. It was tremendously eye opening for me at the time, although I'm not sure how she is regarded in scientific circles today. It was a bit troubling to see her interviewed on "What the Bleep!"

But - I do profess to reading all of those books that came out in the 1990s about how important attitudes toward pregnancy are for the well-being of the child in the womb. And I still firmly believe this is true! There is such an intimate connection between mother and child that it just seems obvious that nurturing begins long before the baby is actually born. I also think it probably has a lot to do with nutrition. I've never given genetic determination much consideration, however.

susan said...

This really was an excellent post, Lindsay, which took me a few days to even partially absorb. I read a book this summer that you'd probably enjoy as much as I did - one called 'Biocentrism' by Robert Lanza, MD PhD. His theory is that consciousness precedes matter is, of course, ancient but he uses science to explore the concept systematically in its particulars, free of the very common unexamined materialist assumptions that most scientists carry into their work. It's always struck me as strange that as individuals scienctists know more and more about abstruse specialties but less about the whole. Consciousness is not an artifact of a preexisting universe but is the essential Being of the Universe, with matter the artifact of consciousness. Along with the realization that all of Being is obviously one event seen from multiple and infinitely diverse viewpoints - combined with a long list of scientific experiments and observations - there is sound and reasonable support for his conclusions.

Like the books you discussed here, this is just one more within a growing number that connects the latest findings in science with what many ancient philosophers have already told us - reality is not 'out there' it's in our heads. We are not casualties of a random process, we are active participants of the process that creates 'reality'. Quantum mechanics has been undeniably showing us this for decades now. There's a major worldview shift coming and I believe it's long overdue. I hope I'm still here to see it but if not, I'll just be over on the other side enjoying the show.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Dennis, Sera, Laura & Susan.

Thanks for your Insightful comments.

The interests of your son in the events in Europe prior to 1914, is in common with many young people today reflecting a renaissance in interest in WW1 history which up until fairly recently has been neglected.
I think interest in our past heritage becomes more pronounced in later life where a fascination takes root about our past.

Sera- I concur with your ideas on the power of the mind as a wonderful healer; for positivism to help both individually and collectively in terms of collective consciousness.

Laura that does sound familiar to Candace Pert's Molecules of Emotion, but I’ m not very familiar with her work.
I am sure those books helped along with your nutrition.

Susan – Thanks for persevering with the post and for your encouraging and affirming remarks, all of which I fully concur. 'Biocentrism' by Robert Lanza, sounds like a great read.