"The biology of belief"

Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles




“If you could be anybody, who would you be?” I used to spend an inordinate amount of time pondering that question. I was obsessed with the fantasy of changing my identity because I wanted to be anybody but me. I had a good career as a cell biologist and medical school professor, but that didn’t make up for the fact that my personal life was, at best, a shambles. The harder I tried to find happiness and satisfaction in my personal life, the more dissatis- fied and unhappy I became. In my reflective moments, I resolved to surrender to my unhappy life. I decided that fate had dealt me a bad hand, and I should simply accept it. Que sera, sera.

In the fall of 1985, my depressed, fatalistic attitude changed in one transformational moment. I had resigned my tenured position at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and was teaching at an offshore medical college in the Caribbean. Because the school was so far from the academic mainstream, I had the opportunity to think outside the rigid parameters of belief that prevail in conven- tional academia. Far from the 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 my research on the mechanisms by which cells control their physiol- ogy and behavior. Suddenly I realized that a cell’s life 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 “con- tractor” who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a cell’s life. It is a single cell’s “awareness” of the environment, not its genes, that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.

As a cell biologist I knew that my insights had powerful ramifi- cations for my life and the lives of all human beings. I was acutely aware that each of us is made up of approximately fifty trillion single cells. I had devoted my professional life to better under- standing single cells because I knew then and know now that the better we understand single cells the better we can understand the community of cells that comprises each human body and that if single cells are controlled by their awareness of the environment so too are we trillion-celled human beings. Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.

On the one hand, my new understanding of the nature of life was a jolt. For close to two decades I had been programming biolo- gy’s central dogmathe belief that life is controlled by genes—into the minds of medical students. On the other hand, my new under- standing was not a complete surprise. I had always had niggling doubts about genetic determinism. Some of those doubts stemmed from my eighteen years of government-funded research on cloning stem cells. Though it took a sojourn outside of traditional academia for me to fully realize it, my research offered incontrovertible proof that biology’s most cherished tenets regarding genetic determinism are fundamentally flawed.

My new understanding of the nature of life not only cor- roborated my stem cell research but also, I realized, contradicted another belief of mainstream science that I had been propounding to my students—the belief that allopathic medicine is the only kind of medicine that merits consideration in medical school. By finally giving the energy-based environment its due, it provided for a grand convergence uniting the science and practice of allopathic medicine, complementary medicine, and the spiritual wisdom of ancient and modern faiths.

On a personal level, I knew at the moment of insight that I had gotten myself stuck simply by believing that I was fated to have a spectacularly unsuccessful personal life. There is no doubt that human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity, and hyper-rational scientists are not immune. Our well-developed nervous system, headed by our big brain, is testament that our awareness is far more complicated than that of a single cell. When our uniquely human minds get involved, we can choose to perceive the environment in different ways, unlike a single cell whose awareness is more reflexive.

I was exhilarated by the new realization that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs. I was instantly energized because I realized that there was a science-based path that would take me from my job as a perennial “victim” to my new position as “co-creator” of my destiny.

It has been more than twenty years since that magical night in the Caribbean. Throughout the intervening years, biological research has continued to corroborate the knowledge I gained on that early morning. Today, two newly evolved fields of science representing the most important areas of biomedical research sub- stantiate the conclusions offered in The Biology of Belief

First, the science of Signal Transduction focuses upon the bio- chemical pathways by which cells respond to environmental cues. Environmental signals engage cytoplasmic processes that can alter gene expression and thereby control cell fate, influence cell move- ment, control cell survival, or even sentence a cell to death. Signal transduction science recognizes that the fate and behavior of an organism is directly linked to its perception of the environment. In simple terms, the character of our life is based upon how we perceive it.

Second, the new science of Epigenetics, which literally means “control above the genes,” has completely upended our conven- tional understanding of genetic control. Epigenetics is the science of how environmental signals select, modify, and regulate gene activity. This new awareness reveals that our genes are constantly being remodeled in response to life experiences. Which again emphasizes that our perceptions of life shape our biology.

Months after this book was first published, an article in one of the most prestigious journals, Nature, revealed exciting new epige- netic insights on how the environment controls gene activity in stem cells, which coincidently is the same subject and conclusion I offer in Chapter 2. I must admit that I was amused by the fact that my chapter is entitled “It’s the Environment, Stupid” while the more recent Nature article was titled “It’s the Ecology, Stupid.” (2005 Nature 435:268) Essentially, we are on the same page!

Some scientists in reviewing this book asked, “So what’s new about this work?” Leading-edge scientists are familiar with the concepts proposed herein, and that’s a good thing. The problem is related to the fact that over 99 percent of the rest of the population, the “lay audience,” is still operating from antiquated and disem- powering beliefs about being victims of their genes.

While research scientists might be familiar with this new and truly radical shift in awareness, these insights have yet to trickle down to the general public. The media worsens the situation by misleading the public with a never-ending onslaught of stories pre- sumably identifying a gene that controls this cancer or that malady. Consequently, the intention behind this book is to translate the significance of this leading-edge science so that it is accessible to the lay audience. It is my sincerest hope that you will recognize that many of the beliefs propelling your life are false and self-limiting and you will be inspired to change those beliefs Understanding on a scientific level how cells respond to your thoughts and percep- tions illuminates the path to personal empowerment. The insights we gain through this new biology unleash the power of conscious- ness, matter, and miracles.

The Biology of Belief is not a self-help book; it is a self-empower- ment book. The information offers knowledge of self and from that knowledge comes the power to control your life.

This information is powerful. I know it is. The life I have cre- ated using this awareness is so much richer and satisfying that I no longer ask myself: “If I could be anybody, who would I be?” For now, the answer is a no-brainer. I want to be me!