Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Bruce H. Lipton, PhD © 2007
This artcle is featured in Mystic Pop’s Nov/Dec issue: Mystic Pop
It is obvious, even to the most Prozaced-out individual, that today’s global crises impacting the environment, health, economics and social stability are threatening the survival of human civilization. Suddenly, the old cartoon of some bearded weirdo carrying a placard reading, “The World is Ending!” doesn’t seem that funny. Media and government continuously focus our attention on the darkness of impending crises, however, recent advances in physics and biology offer a significantly different and amazingly hopeful alternative for these very same symptoms.
New scientific insights suggest the evolution of human civilization resembles the recurring fate of the Phoenix, a sacred firebird revered in ancient Egyptian mythology. At the end of its lifecycle the Phoenix builds a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes. From the ashes arises a new and greater Phoenix.
A renaissance in scientific awareness is rewriting our fundamental perceptions about life and evolution. Weaving together the elements of the new physics (quantum mechanics), the new biology (epigenetics) and the new math (fractal geometry) reveal that today’s crises are not signifying an end to civilization, rather they are portents of an astounding new beginning, the emergence of a new Phoenix—global humanity.
The character of all cultures is based upon a set of fundamental beliefs referred to as the basal paradigm. Significant changes in societal beliefs inevitably lead to a disintegration of the prevailing culture and the emergence of a new one. Western Civilization evolved through a sequence of such cultural upheavals; transitioning from animism (aboriginal cultures such as Native Americans), to polytheism (e.g., Egyptians, Romans and Greeks), to monotheism (Judeo-Christian and Islamic cultures) and to the current culture of scientific materialism (based upon the “truths” of Modern Science). Each civilization is defined by its own unique basal paradigm.
Currently civilization is poised for another cultural upheaval. Recent revisions in science are profoundly revising four flawed “truths” upon which our culture is built. I refer to these old beliefs as the Four Myth-Perceptions of the Apocalypse, misperceptions that are contributing to the demise of our civilization.
Myth-Perception 1 – Biology is controlled by matter-based Newtonian mechanics [Revision- Biology is controlled by invisible Quantum mechanical forces]
Myth-Perception 2 – Genes control life [Revision- The new science of epigenetics reveals that environment controls genes] Myth-Perception 3 – “Survival of the fittest” drives evolution [Revision- Cooperation drives evolution]
Myth-Perception 4 – Evolution is a Random Process [Revision- Organisms evolve to conform to environment] When these fundamentally new scientific insights replace our currently limiting cultural myths, the ashes of our current civilization will give rise to a more magnificent version of the human Phoenix. The following brief discussion focuses upon new scientific insights that dispel the myth of genes, the limiting belief that genes control biology.
Recently, results of the Human Genome Project have shattered one of Science’s fundamental core beliefs, the concept of genetic determinism. We have been led to believe that our genes determine the character of our lives, yet new research surprisingly reveals that it is the character of our lives that controls our genes. Rather than being victims of our heredity, we are actually masters of our genome.
The new science of epigenetics illuminates how our mind (perceptions, attitudes and emotions) shapes biology and behavior. Throughout infancy, our primary perceptions of life were programmed with cultural beliefs. Since perceptions shape behavior and gene activity, cultural beliefs become biology. For example, are we violent because we are genetically disposed to being violent? Or, are we violent because we believe we are genetically disposed to being violent? The new science reveals either cause could be right.
Cell biology is important because the human body is actually a community of upwards to fifty trillion cells. The physical and behavioral traits of cells are derived from over 150,000 different protein building blocks whose structures are programmed in our genes. One of biology’s most hallowed beliefs, codified as the Central Dogma, stipulates that information in biology flows in only one direction: from DNA to RNA to protein. Consequently, the Central Dogma provides for the notion of genetic determinism, the belief that genes “control” the character of life. Textbooks and mass media are still informing the public that genes control their lives, regardless of the fact that most biologists are now aware that this simplified assumption is not valid.
Between the 1970’s and 80’s, as a tenured faculty member of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine, I was dutifully programming the Central Dogma into the malleable minds of my medical students. However, my university work was primarily concerned with research on muscular dystrophy employing cultures of cloned stem cells. Cloned cells are created by inoculating a single stem cell into a culture dish and allowing it to divide many times, producing thousands of genetically identical cells.
To my surprise, I found that by changing some of the components in my tissue culture dishes or by changing the composition of the incubator’s atmospheric gases, I could profoundly alter the fate of my cultured cells. For example, I would split my stem cell culture into three tissue culture dishes, each exposed to different environmental condition. In one dish the cells formed muscle, in another they formed bone and the remaining dish the cells formed fat (adipose). Since my culture were seeded with genetically identical stem cells, it was clear that the differentiated fate of the cell was under the control of the culture environment and NOT the genes.
My peers considered my studies “heretical” since they challenged the Dogma of gene control. Heresies, dogmas…my first realization that modern science was somewhat of a religion! These studies, demonstrating that cells were not “controlled” by genes, emphasized the power of nurture over nature in influencing our lives.
Though research has established that genes don’t control life, textbooks and mass media still refer to the gene-containing nucleus as the cell’s brain, fostering the outdated belief that genes control biology. Twenty years ago, I had recognized that the nucleus was not the brain, it was functionally equivalent to the cell’s gonads, strictly involved with cell reproduction. Additionally, experiments in which the cell’s nucleus is removed, showed that cells can live and express complex behaviors for two or more months without having any genes.
Spurred on by challenges from disbelieving peers, I refocused my research to identify the mechanisms by which environmental information controlled behavior and genetics. Eventually my quest revealed the cell’s “skin” (the cell membrane) was responsible for reading and responding to environmental conditions. “Switches” in the membrane were comprised of protein receptors, the cell’s equivalents of eyes, ears and nose, that read environmental signals, and protein effectors that activated cell functions or the reading of genes. Membrane “switches” enable cells to dynamically adapt their genes and behavior to conform to environmental demands.
Membrane “switches” are molecular units of perception used in regulating the cell’s biology. The membrane, more accurately, the “mem-Brain,” represents the cell’s equivalent of a brain. Understanding membrane structure and function would be key to understanding the nature of life. In 1985, I was reviewing the molecular architecture and behavior of the cell membrane as an environmental information processor. In outline form, I jotted down a series of descriptive phrases using terms I’d hadn’t used before. I sat back and reviewed what I had just written: “The cell membrane is a liquid crystal, semiconductor with gates and channels.”
As a cellular biologist, I’d never used these particular phrases, yet they sounded very familiar. Where had I heard them? On the corner of my desk, I noticed my first computer, a smiley-faced Macintosh, and next to it a book I had been reading entitled Understanding Your Microprocessor. On page three in the book’s Introduction, was the definition of a computer chip, “…a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”
I froze. The next sequence of thoughts happened probably in milliseconds—but to me, it seemed like hours. First I thought, “What a coincidence…the cell membrane and a computer chip share the same definition!” Then a few more hour-long milliseconds lapsed and it hit me, “This was not a simple coincidence! The molecular architecture and behavior of a computer chip is essentially identical to a cell membrane!” The membrane is not analogous to a chip; the membrane is homologous to a chip. Meaning, the membrane is not “like a chip,” the membrane IS a chip.
The cell membrane is a carbon-based, molecular equivalent of a silicon-based computer chip. Every cell is a programmable chip, with a hard drive (the nucleus) containing software (genes). As with conventional silicon based computers, cellular data is entered via a keyboard—comprised of thousands of different membrane protein receptors keyed to different environmental signals. Ambient environmental signals are converted into cell behavior by the membrane’s effector proteins.
Around ten years ago, the new science of epigenetics evolved to describe the molecular mechanisms by which environmental signals dynamically control the activity of genes. Most importantly, epigenetic mechanisms can generate over 30,000 different protein variations from each gene blueprint. In contrast to the belief that genes are hardwired programs, epigenetics reveal that gene programs are rewriteable enabling cells to adapt to dynamic environments. Epigenetic science demonstrates that the cell’s nucleus is a read-write hard disk, wherein gene software is programmed by the membrane’s response to environmental perceptions.
Since cells respond to environment al cues, why are we not human “clones” since we are exposed to the same environment? The answer, no two people are biologically the same; your body would reject a tissue or organ graft from anyone else by recognizing the foreign cells as not being self. Likewise, your cells would be rejected by any other recipient for the same reason.
Where is an individual’s identity to be found? The cells in each body have a unique set of membrane proteins on their outer surface. Medicine identifies a subset of the these receptors as self-receptors, literally, “receivers of self.” When self-receptors are removed from a cell it becomes a generic cell, transplantable into anyone without being rejected. Transferring one person’s set of self-receptors on to another’s cell would also transfer “ownership” of that cell.
Where does our identity come from? Apparently, it is a unique “signal” from the field read by our self-receptors. Importantly, this communication is a two-way street; signals are not just coming into the cells, since our experiential awareness is sent back out to the field and changes the source! The invisible moving forces described by quantum biophysics that activate the self-receptors are the same invisible moving forces acknowledged as spirit.
Interestingly, the signals defining self are still in the environment even if the cells die and are not here to read them. Even more interesting, a new child could come into being displaying an “old” set of self-receptors—the “old” soul would be back on air…reincarnation!
For a guy who didn’t believe in spirituality, understanding the nature of the membrane rocked my world It was a transformational moment for me to discover that I am NOT a biochemical robot, but a spiritually controlled community of programmable cells who is now collaborating with other cell “communities” to create the new human Phoenix.
For more information on this and other topics, visit: www.brucelipton.com
Author reserves first rights
Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., bestselling author of The Biology of Belief, is a cellular biologist and former Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine.† His pioneering research on cloned stem cells at Wisconsin presaged the revolutionary field of epigenetics, the new science of how environment and perception control genes. His later research at Stanford University’s School of Medicine revealed the nature of the biochemical pathways that bridge the mind-body duality. His book, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness Matter and Miracles, an LA Times Bestseller won Best Science Book of the Year by USA Book News in 2006.† He has been a guest speaker on numerous radio and television programs, and a sought after keynote presenter for national organizations. (www.brucelipton.com)
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