I have always been a sceptic with regard to anything that cannot be proven scientifically. Coming from a moderately religious family, I grew up believing, God is omnipresent and that they live somewhere high up in the sky, way beyond the clouds and way beyond any place we as humans could ever see. However, over the years as I studied more about astronomy the idea of a place high up in the sky where Gods live, steadily faded away. Living in a competitive and demanding corporate environment, I became increasingly conscious that the circumstances of my life are dependent on my actions, and this in turn eroded my belief in the idea of all powerful Gods who had the reins of my destiny in their hands.
Nevertheless, I have always been suspended between belief and disbelief though I shy away from any concept that requires of me to believe without a basis for that belief. Therefore, I was excited to come across a book like The Biology of Beliefthat could possibly dispel my confusion and introduce me to the scientific aspect of belief.
A scientific self-help genre
In my opinion, the self-help genre is at its highest peak at the moment. If not all, many of my peers, including me, have felt overwhelmed with their lives at some point. We desperately feel the need to change our lives but are hardly able to do so and therefore, it is not surprising that we would be easily hooked in by Dr. Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief, as he claims that he too like us “was obsessed with the fantasy of changing [his] identity” (Lipton xiii). Moreover, Dr. Lipton is acutely aware of the sceptical nature of his readers and hence follows an approach that aims to pacify us.
Beliefs change our life
He knows that claims like he“could change the character of [his] life by changing [his] beliefs”(xv) would seem farfetched to us. This is perhaps the reason why he has taken the pains to explain the biological working mechanism of cells in the first few chapters of the book. Though he claims to explain concepts of molecular biology in layman language, as readers, you will have to invest considerable amount of focus while fighting the will to skip these parts, in order to understand the concepts better.
A shaking up of our beliefs
He starts his explanation right from single celled organisms and progressively approaches the idea of the Earth as an organism. The concept of human beings replicating the behaviour of miniature cells is supported through the evidence provided by scientific papers. Theories fed to us right from our childhood–like the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin– has been skilfully challenged in the book. Having shaken our belief system, he has argued that our genes do not control us but rather the environment controls the genes. As an engineer who has been introduced to the complexity of quantum physics, I feel, that Dr. Lipton went out of his way to study and understand quantum physics, and applied it to his understanding of molecular Biology, is commendable and inspiring from the point of view of cross disciplinary studies. Despite this, his explanation is confusing because of a lack of a voice of authority on Quantum Physics in the narrative of the book.
Pharmaceutical company versus energy medicine
Based on insights gained from Quantum Physics, Dr. Lipton, makes a case for energy based medicine popular in Eastern societies. He couples a number of cases categorised as medical anomalies with his knowledge of molecular biology and quantum physics to argue “belief about…[a]… treatment affect[s] its outcome” (94). As readers we are forced to question the motives of the pharmaceutical industry in the face of the proposition that “[i]f the power of your mind can heal your sick body, why should you go to the doctor and moreimportantly, why would you need to buy drugs”(Lipton 107). The idea that our minds have the cure to all our ailments, and on top of it are programmable, is indeed enticing.
A programmable mind
Dr. Lipton explains, as soon as we lose our awareness while doing any activity, the conscious mind is taken over by the subconscious mind, which takes inputs from everything happening in its environment and gets pre-programmed on the basis of habits. Thus, the solution Dr. Lipton seems to be providing is, once you program your subconscious mind your life is sorted. Unfortunately, he stops short of answering how? Rather, he chooses to end his book by drawing us into a discussion full of analogies.
The acquisition of dense knowledge turns into a fun-filled experience when the driving mechanism of proteins in our body becomes the driving mechanism of gears in machinery. The cell membrane becomes a butter-olive sandwich. On the other hand, the analogy that equates humans to Mars rovers and the divine Spirit to the NASA controlling station left me feeling uneasy. According to this analogy, if NASA controls the Mars rover, it means, the Spirit controls a human being. Even if I were to accept this as truth, the book does not answer the need for the Spirit to control human beings; neither does it give any indication from where the Spirit draws its intelligence.
An engaging read
Nevertheless, Dr. Lipton’s style of writing is engaging and extremely humorous. I couldn’t help laughing out loud when, Dr. Lipton on being asked by a waitress at a coffee-shop, “[W]hy [he was] so happy?”, replies “I’m in Heaven!”, and hearing this reply the waitress “shook her head from side to side mumbling, “My, my”” (Lipton xv). His language is conversational and creates a hope in the reader that they would find some sort of solution to their issue through this book. Dr. Lipton claims that understanding the concepts of biology would lead to “personal empowerment” (Lipton 16). However, this does not happen completely, as we are left with the knowledge that we are responsible for everything in our life without the tools to implement this knowledge. No doubt, utopian ideas like living in a community and helping the community rather than constantly being in a fighting and surviving mode have been argued scientifically. Furthermore, an acknowledgement that “the most wide-spread and insidious form of human violence is ideological control”practised by governments and religious institutions, is welcome (Lipton 171). While I have been able to accept the hypothesis that all organisms are created in the image of the universe, I am still uncertain about the idea of an immortal spirit controlling my actions as I go about surveying my environment.
Perhaps, it all does come down to belief! Nevertheless, this book is a must read if you are a sceptic or an ardent believer. This book will make a sceptic reconsider and further research beliefs that might have been dismissed as hogwash. On the other hand, this book will also make an ardent believer reconsider and further research the scientific basis for their belief.
Until next time,
In obeisance to the divine in you,