"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Biology and Psychology of Belief

Just as some leading theoretical physicists are challenging current scientific paradigms regarding the 'hard problem' of consciousness - i.e., whether, in fact, 'mind' arises from 'matter' - so, too, some leading biologists are challenging scientific paradigms regarding how living matter interacts at the molecular, cellular and organic level with the environment. "We don't know how consciousness works, or what it does," says controversial biologist, Rupert Sheldrake. "(It) is called 'the hard problem,' because there is no known reason why we should be conscious at all, or exactly how the mind works."

In the attached video, The Biology of Perception, developmental biologist and epigeneticist, Dr. Bruce Lipton, convincingly explains how at a cellular level an organism is 'conscious' of its environment and shapes its behaviour. In doing so, he debunks the widely-accepted Darwinian principle that "random mutations" are preferentially selected over generations to fill environmental niches. Rather, he makes a succinct argument that "adaptive mutations" are triggered at a cellular level in response to the environment inhabited by a particular organism. It is these "adaptive" rather than "random" mutations winnowed out by "the survival of the fittest" which are, according to Lipton, presumably, the drivers behind the diversity of organisms we encounter.

In a clear and readily understandable (if lengthy) analysis, Dr. Lipton emphasizes recent breakthroughs in molecular biology that demonstrate how it is environmental signals, cellular membranes and proteins, rather than DNA, which dictate how an organism behaves. In this new biological paradigm - analogous, in its way, to the new paradigms created by a deeper understanding of quantum physics - it is a cell's membranes, rather than its genetic material, which are seen as "the brains" of the organism.

Further, at a macro level, Lipton convincingly demonstrates that we can consciously select the environmental 'field' in which we live, thereby affecting our health, growth and well-being at both our cellular and organic levels. (The alternative being that we 'unconsciously' select a sub-optimal environment that is biologically, cognitively and spiritually stressful and injurious.)

In short, Dr. Lipton makes the scientific case for the primacy of evolving perceptions which shape our being, both mentally and materially. According to his model, "perception" not only "controls" behaviour, but, additionally, "perception" both "controls" and "rewrites" our genes.



In the accompanying video, Dr. Lipton's colleague, Rob Williams, closes the ontological circle, by demonstrating how our "beliefs" control our "perceptions".  "Your beliefs," he observes, "determine your biological and behavioural reality."



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