446 of 479 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing, but still worthwhile,
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This review is from: Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here) (Hardcover)I bought Dr. Lipton's The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles a few weeks ago and was delighted and thrilled with the book and the insights it contained. In particular, I especially appreciated the various pieces of scientific evidence he provided, such as the Human Genome Project's findings, the enucleated cell scenario (a cell can survive for weeks or even longer with no DNA, no nucleus), the discovery that RNA can re-write DNA in certain circumstances, the notion of epigenetics (control above genes) with a scientific experiment involving mice as proof that the expression of genes can be influenced (at least in some cases) by environment. Mostly, however, I appreciated the journey of discovery that Dr. Lipton shared with us--indeed, that he took us along for. I felt in reading that book that I was right there, being SHOWN the steps along the way, the path. And it was amazing.
Now, I'm a scientist by training and profession--I work at Cornell university's particle accelerator--and by now I have a pretty good sense of when something is and isn't supported by actual scientific evidence. I'm not an atheist (nor am I a "believer") and I don't hold with the notion that only matter matters, nor with the thought that if something isn't objectively proven by scientific experiment it isn't "real".
However . . . in my opinion, one of the weaknesses of The Biology of Belief was that it often jumped a lot of steps from initial evidence and discovery and acquaintance to end-result. For example, OK, the membrane is the brain of the cell, and uses receptor and effector molecules to receive input from the outside and turn that into action, response. Check. Got it. Well established in the book and very enjoyable to read about. Mind blowing, really! I loved it. But then, there is talk about receiving electromagnetic information, in addition to chemical cues (such as hormones). OK. Cool. But what sort of EM? How do we know this? Yes, EM is fantastically more suited to information processing vs. chemical, but what EXPERIMENTS were done to probe the EM reception of cells? None were mentioned.
And, BAM! Suddenly we've jumped to BELIEF. Belief is the communication with our cells via an EM field. (Or maybe it's THE FIELD! OMG!) OK. Listen, it's not that I disbelieve this notion. I suspect there's something to it. And in my own life I've directly, personally experienced the power of my "mind-set" over my perceptions and wellbeing. I get it. I'm not trying to be a scoffer or a "debunker". Really, Im not. But, if you want to claim that your book is based on "new science" then, YOU'VE GOT TO SHOW ME THE SCIENCE. Otherwise, I can read any number of exciting and mind-blowing new age type books (and I'm not knocking the term "new age", by the way)--books that are very light on serious proof and scientific evidence, and very heavy on the message and meaning and what-we-need-to-do and how the world is all screwed up in this way or that way.
So, that was the weakness of The Biology of Belief, in my humble opinion. There were definite jumps in the evidence trail where you got taken by helicopter to a higher level. That doesn't make it untrue, but it does make it unscientifically grounded. Or at least undocumented.
I expected that Spontaneous Evolution was going to address these gaps. I wanted to hear MORE MORE MORE about epigenetics and evolution and experiments and etc. and etc. And, to be fair, to some extent, Spontaneous Evolution delivered on that. I was thrilled to read about Cairn's experiments with bacteria that showed that they could, in times of environmental stress, turn on a sloppy DNA copying mechanism that resulted in a great many more mutations than normal. And directed mutations, directed toward one specific gene that wasn't doing its' job. I loved it. Good stuff. And there was some good stuff about the evolution from primitive bacteria, how they formed colonies to better survive, and how these then became the more complicated cells that have a nucleus and organelles and so on. And then these form multi-celled organisms, and finally that organisms can be thought to be forming a super-organism: humanity. OK. Fine. But, honestly, you've just gotten about as much scientific content from my brief description as was provided in the book. If the Biology of Belief could be said to be more about exploration and explanation, Spontaneous Evolution is more about presentation: a summary and "big picture" of Dr. Lipton and Steve Bhaerman's BELIEFS.
Beliefs are fine. OK. But the notion that this book is different than other "New Age Fluff" because it is grounded in science is optimistic at best, and more or less incorrect in my opinion. The beliefs are HARMONIOUS with science, in my opinion, and I share many of them. I'm not trying to knock them! But, I wasn't expecting a book of presentation of beliefs. I was expecting something more, something different, something a lot more like The Biology of Belief.
Oh, and can I just complain about the writing style for a minute. Maybe it came from Mr. Bhaerman, or maybe Dr. Lipton just didn't keep as close a reign on his whimsy as before--or maybe I was in a less forgiving mood than before--but for whatever reason, the constant neologisms (nay, malapropisms might be more apt) really got under my skin. "Thrival of the Fittingest" (seriously). And "Scare-City" (for scarcity). And preverberation (for pre reverberation). And "mine-ing" for corporations saying MINE MINE MINE. They are "mining". Get it? And "from Lamb-o to Rambo" (for Jesus lamb of God, to law of the jungle where John Rambo rules.) And here's a typical Bhaerman-ism "When your only intention is looking out for number one, everyone and everything else gets treated like number two." (from "Swami Beyondananda"). Seriously, it felt like any time they COULD mess with a word, they DID mess with a word. I found it distracting and annoying.
Moving on, let me talk about quantum mechanics. First, yes, the wave function is the governing description of the particle at the quantum scale. But, physicists are rolling their eyes everywhere (or would be) on finding out that this means that "matter doesn't exist". Sorry, but that's not what a physicist will tell you. And it's not what Einstein meant when he talked about the governing field of a particle. In a very real sense, the wave function IS the particle, or is a description of the particle. It is not a negation of the notion of matter! I will agree, however, that it IS a negation of the Newtonian conception of matter as a hard billiard ball that is always at a specific place with a specific momentum. But, just because the OBSERVATION affects the particle--collapses the wave function--that DOES NOT prove that it was the CONSCIOUSNESS of the observer that did it! Honestly, I have no idea why physicists have been letting that get smuggled into things for so long now! In the Shrodinger's Cat paradox, for example, the observation IS THE GEIGER COUNTER. That is where the transition from mico to macro realms takes place. There is no need to invoke the consciousness of the cat or of the human who eventually opens the box. Feynman alludes to this in his Lectures when he says that nature doesn't care if we look at the data or not.
So, that simple fact of the observation collapsing the wave function does not prove that the consciousness is a co-creator of reality. However, it does not DISPROVE it either. And, indeed, there are experiments--real valid scientific experiments--that suggest that human intention can and does affect reality. I highly recommend Dean Radin's The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena for more information on this. But, anyway, the point is that without actual experiment you can't make the LEAP from one thing to the other and call it "scientific" just because your leaping off point was vaguely scientific. Clear?
And this is precisely what Spontaneous Evolution does far FAR too often. I wanted to LOVE this book. I was really looking forward to it. But I only can say that I like it. It's a decent and very ambitious overview of much enlightened "new age" "new science" type views. If you don't really know what I mean by this, you'll probably like this book a lot more than I did.
Anyway, here is a specific example where I felt REALLY let down:
HOW DID WE GET HERE? THE HOLISTIC VIEW
Cosmologists agree that before the appearance of matter the Universe was comprised of an entangled matrix of invisible energy referred to as the field. After the Big Bang, estimated to have occurred 15 billion years ago, physical matter precipitated out of that energy field and has been entangled with it ever since.
The principles of quantum mechanics emphasize the primacy of energy fields in their influence over matter. Consequently, the Universe's matter is organized by information, represented as energy patterns contained within the field. The principles of quantum mechanics lend support to Socrates' notion that invisible forms, or souls, are responsible for shaping the physical realm.
Because the field's information existed prior to the material world, we can easily entertain the notion of CREATIONISM in which an organism's form existed in the field as a defined energy pattern before the physical organism appeared on the planet.
Over a period lasting billions of years, Earth's physical matter gradually assembled into complex physical forms that complement the field's invisible information patterns. In linear time, the first living organisms to appear on the planet were simple bacteria. Through the use of adaptive mutation mechanisms and epigenetic modifications, primitive cells were able to select and alter their genetic code in order to better accommodate their environmental niches. Heredity-modifying processes provided living organisms with a mechanism to continuously adapt to new and ever-changing environments.
The time-dependent process of assembling physical matter into cells followed by the assembly of cells into complex organisms, such as humans, represents the linear process of evolution. Therefore, it appears that the origins of the biosphere's organisms are derived from both creation and evolution processes.
Got that? It's simple. Creationists and evolutionists are both right. And so was Socrates. And any physicist will affirm this. . . . err, right? Won't they? Well, no, actually, you'd lose even the cosmologist certainly by the point of Socrates' notion of forms and souls, and probably before that. Maybe this is right! Maybe this is EXACTLY how it "really" is. But, it ain't science, my friend. Not even close. Science fiction more like. And, don't get me wrong. I love science fiction. But, personally, I do NOT think that the T-Rex was sitting in "the field" at the big bang, as a sort of Socratic form. Also, I've never heard about "the field" in relation with the big bang. Maybe it's just because I haven't studied quantum cosmology all that carefully yet. Or maybe it's because it's not a generally accepted term. In any case, if you liked what you just read, then you'll love Spontaneous Evolution. But, if, like me, you find the above unsatisfying, you will find a lot more of it in this book. Be prepared. (Or just buy The Biology of Belief instead.)
Also, I was very disappointed that Dr. Lipton set up a sort of straw-man of current evolutionary theory by saying that mainstream evolutionists think that evolution is random, and akin to a thousand monkeys typing for a thousand years and eventually producing Hamlet or something. Not so. Mutations are random, they would say, yes. But selection is NOT. That is a strict function of environment and fitness. Mr Dawkins' "Climbing Mount Improbable" comes to mind. And please note that I am NOT a fan of Dawkins. (And I was very interested to read in Spontaneous Evolution that the CEO of Enron's favorite book was The Selfish Gene.)
Anyway, I am probably giving more of a negative impression than I really want to, so let me balance this out with some of the strengths of this book. I think that the dismantling of the four myth-perceptions was quite well done, and I appreciated (and agree with) the material on brain-waves and childhood development and the programming of the unconscious that we all received (and need to revisit and revise). And there was some solid stuff on the economy (a la The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve and some good stuff on health-care. And I'm on board with the whole message of "we're all in this together" and that cooperation is the real message of Evolution as opposed to competition. There's some good stuff in here, to be sure.
So, overall, it's an OK book and it's more or less worth reading. But for me, I'm sorry to say that after The Biology of Belief, it was a disappointment.
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Showing 1-10 of 117 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 12, 2009 4:48:40 AM PDT
Janet A. Holmes says:
Great review! Thank you for covering it so well. I will take your advice and stick to his Biology of Belief. I like the way Richard Bartlett (Physics of Miracles, Matrix Energetics) covers these things. He points out we can't really rely on any one Truth as the minute you do, you've collapsed the wave at that possibility and excluded all other versions of Truth. The Observer effect definitely throws a monkey wrench into the process of trying to scientifically prove this stuff.
Posted on Oct 24, 2009 6:31:06 PM PDT
Lori Tindall says:
Thank you for the well thought out review. Perhaps YOU should write a book, I would buy it!
Posted on Oct 28, 2009 3:32:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2009 3:32:42 PM PDT
Daniel C. J. Cosman says:
The mind cannot understand, my brother. The mind cannot understand oneness because it is, by nature, divisive. When you quiet your mind, and feel the divinity within, you suddenly understand that this 'humanity' is exactly what we are and that these two brave and wonderful men are speaking only truth, only peace.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2009 5:29:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2009 7:04:44 AM PST
James Sexton says:
I agree, although I would replace the word "mind" in your post above with "small mind". I am , or have been, a practitioner of zen meditation, as well as trance and active imagination and a number of other eastern practices. Personally, I place a very high value on spirituality and intuition. I strive for balance--balance between masculine and feminine, between left brain and right brain, between reason and intuition, between head and heart. This is why I went out of my way in my review of Spontaneous Evolution to point out that I was not trying to attack the truth of the books main points. As I said quite clearly, I agree with most if not all of them.
The thing is, that in this day and age the hegemony and dominance of science is so pervasive and complete that many people feel the need to ground all things in science, even spiritual ones. This is unwise, and even dangerous. Science cannot speak directly about things spiritual. They are matters of the heart, of the right brain, of intuition. And, on the other hand, spirituality cannot (or should not) invalidate or misinterpret scientific investigations and results. I am a scientist. I am also a "spiritual" person. I have studied quantum mechanics and field theory at the graduate level. I have also spent many many hours meditating or praying or doing some other spiritual practice. But this does not lead me to confuse and conflate the one thing with the other. I refuse to get all hazy and fuzzy about quantum mechanics or evolution because it might lend some sort of support to one or more of my spiritual or political views. And, in the same way, I refuse to allow a scientific theory or finding to dictate something like ethics or morality (for example, eugenics--as many early followers of Darwin were in fact eugenicists).
The early reviews of Spontaneous Evolution pointed out that it was not just "New Age Fluff" because it was grounded in science, and the book itself weaves scientific results and theories into its presentation in such a way as to suggest that the views in the book are scientifically grounded and that science and spirituality can be seamlessly blended together. My review is simply pointing out that:
1. Most of the views in Spontaneous Evolution are NOT grounded in science, new or otherwise.
2. Science and "spiritual" beliefs do NOT always blend together.
Point (1) doesn't mean the views aren't true but it does cause confusion and the scientist in me strongly objects
point (2) usually means that both the science side of things and the spiritual side of things get bent and distorted for the worse. This books contribution to the evolution debates is simply AWFUL and worse than useless. I'm sorry, but no evolutionist believes that evolution is "random" in the sense that Spontaneous Evolution implies. And I'm sorry, but the whole conflation of evolution and "fields" to try to say that there is no conflict between evolution and "creationism" is just wretched and silly.
These men are not speaking ONLY truth!
I strongly feel the divinity within me and I have profoundly experienced the divisive nature of the small mind, of the ego, by experiencing the contrasting state of a quiet mind. And for me, this means I am all the more committed to truth at ALL levels, in all its forms, whether it be scientific truth, spiritual truth, humanistic truth, historical truth, personal truth, --any and all. And this is why I wrote my review of this book. And it is why I went OUT OF MY WAY to try to maintain the subtle distinction between scientific evidence and "spiritual" or humanistic truth. Time and again I did this. If you re-read my review I suspect you will see this. You will find only two places where I say Spontaneous Evolution is out and out wrong. All other places are places where I disagree that the views are based on science, which does not speak to the question of whether they are true or false. But it's still worth pointing out in my opinion.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2009 12:27:10 AM PST
A reviewer says:
"The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking
and there is nothing you will not be able to know."
-- Chien-chih Seng-ts'an
Third Zen Patriarch (606AD)
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2009 3:08:46 PM PST
Marshall Winkler says:
-nice job, James. I appreciate the obvious time and energy that went into your posts. Obviously this matters to you and I feel you do a service by sharing your insight.
Posted on Dec 1, 2009 3:25:44 PM PST
Posted on Dec 25, 2009 9:29:52 AM PST
Julie Lettieri says:
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2009 6:06:04 PM PST
The Capitol says:
Not trying to answer for James, but...
I think he has clearly stated that he is disappointed because the book is not as scientific as it claims to be. Certain concepts may eventually prove true, but it is not scientific to skip a step in logic and jump to a conclusion. A belief.
The "not an atheist, nor a believer" should be pretty self-explanatory. It is entirely possible to have ideas and thoughts without subscribing to a belief or labeling oneself. I would argue that is often better to have ideas than to have beliefs. This can help us keep our minds open.
(Maybe you fully understand these statements. If so, I apologize, and please see the rest of my comment below.)
It's great to be a skeptic, and OK to be critical with right intent. I am perplexed as to why you think less of his review given his expertise. If anything, it should make his review more credible than the others. It is probably more likely that you do not want anyone to challenge anything in the book than it is that James was being overly critical of the book.
One last idea. Being open-minded is not great in and of itself. Combine it with some knowledge, wisdom, and critical thinking, and then you have something nice to work with.
Posted on Jan 8, 2010 7:27:33 AM PST
I am very interested in this book and will definitely be grabbing it in the near future, but your review reminded me to always take things with a grain of salt, especially where "new science" is involved. I will read and discern carefully. Also, I appreciate your book recommendations.