When I was a teen, genetic determinism was in full swing. As I watched my grandparents die of heart attacks or strokes, I became convinced that my life would end by the same mechanism and I was content with the inevitable partially because it was a far off reality. But again, science is shifting our thinking. The new paradigm is called epigenetics and it has a lot to say about the choices we make. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity not caused by changes in the DNA structure.

biology of belief

Science is starting to grapple with the idea that our environment and choices are far more important than our genetic code. Bruce Lipton’s book The Biology of Belief, cites that around 95% of our illnesses are related to life-style choices, stress, and a toxic environment. We have far more ability to influence our futures than merely accepting whatever is in our genetic code is written in stone. Studies of identical twins (with identical DNA) reveal that oftentimes only one twin exhibits some dreaded disease. There can also be substantial differences in longevity. How is this possible? How could genetic determinism get it so wrong?

As usual, science’s understanding has grown slowly and advanced a simple view which has become outmoded. It turns out that our genes are far from static. Genes are always in flux and always being influenced. Some genes are activated by growth, healing, or learning. Another kind of gene is influenced by stress, emotion, or dreaming. A new understanding through epigenetics may allow us to use our will to activate our genes and influence our destiny. According to this way of thinking, changing our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors sends new messages to our cells thereby changing our protein production without affecting our DNA blueprint. So the original code stays the same, but new information allows the cells to create thousands of variations of that gene.


As an illustration of how this might work, Joe Dispenza in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, looked at a Japanese study of type 2 diabetes. The subjects were divided into two groups. After a baseline reading to establish fasting blood sugar levels, one group watched an hour-long comedy show while the other group watched a boring lecture. Subsequent to viewing the programs, the group who had watched the comedy show had significantly lower levels of blood sugar. After ruling out the idea that physically laughing took glucose from the blood, the researchers found that the laughing diabetics had altered 23 different gene expressions. A new state of mind apparently triggered their brains to send new signals to their cells which allowed genetic variations affecting blood sugar levels.

genie in your genes

The overall idea here is that we have a vast amount of say in how our genes create our futures. I am not destined to die of a heart attack, nor am I necessarily protected from cancer, just because no one in my family has had it. DNA is not destiny. We will need to tread carefully when we have any kind of genetic testing. I do ascribe to the idea that knowledge is power, but we need to be cautious and not bring into fruition a future that defaults to a false belief system. Another great book on the emerging paradigm is The Genie in Your Genes by Dawson Church.


Filed under Book Review, Books, health

40 responses to “GENES ARE NOT DESTINY

  1. Reblogged this on ThinkWorth and commented:
    Genes, Destiny and Laughing Diabetics!

  2. Hi Ellis, thank you for your like of my post from Hegel. A friend thinks very highly of Bruce LIpton. Best wishes, Phil Stanfield

  3. There are things that genes control (e,g eye color) but way too much stuff is being blamed on genetics. Good Post.

  4. Hey, thanks for the LIKE on my blog.

  5. Great post, Ellis. I have been interested in the epigenetics question for quite some time, and have been thinking about the parallels that exist between genes and their flexibility of expression, and archetypes which hold the same essential core meaning whilst expressing through an inexhaustible number of branches.
    For example, as an astrologer I have done hundreds of readings in which I explore eg the combination of the energies of Saturn, the archetypal principle of form/structure/realism, and Neptune, the archetypal principle of imagination/ unreality/formlessness/dissolution.
    In one person this can manifest as a fear of facing up to reality and collapse into drug addiction of some kind as a form of escape. In another, it can express as the person being drawn to making beautiful musical instruments through the shaping of solid wood into eg a sublime-sounding violin.
    What I have found both in my own life and the lives of clients, is that striving to become as consciously aware as possible of those forces which run our lives, gives us some choice in how the archetypal energies
    ( genes?) we are given at the beginning of our lives, play out over time.

    Thanks, I think you’ve given me yet another idea for an article or blog post – if I can only find the time!

  6. I cannot possible add more than what have already been said, but I really appreciate this post as I am convinced we can change our reality, our life and our health, just by changing our thoughts as Louise Hay and many others have experienced themselves… We should be very attentive to our thoughts as our first step (I am trying to think positive all the time however difficult!, and so often I am in owe of things changing around me)…Yes, I have listen to Lipton on his videos explaining his own lab experiments with cells being exposed to a different environment and feelings and seeing the magic taking place… Yes, nothing is no longer the way we were made to believe… We’ve gone a long way since the first time ‘Quantum physics’ entered our life…
    Thanks Ellis.

    • Joe Dispenza’s book does begin with the idea of positive thoughts but he says it’s not enough- as you point out. We have to unseat our current personality enough to welcome change into our lives. This takes real work because something like 95% of our behavior relies on unconscious patterns. We deal with life pretty much on auto-pilot. We have to start seeing those patterns before we can change and bring new circumstances in our lives. But we are starting to gain insights on how our thinking matters.

  7. Thank you for giving me reassurance. I am very interested in health and happiness and longevity but the scientific bind that we face because we have none other, tells us that our genes determine longevity and health. But you have given me hope and also it is heartening to find the bastions science has built up for itself with smug certainty is being challeneged by new writers.

  8. JF

    From 80 years of experience I can state that a strong person can drastically change everything in her/his life.

  9. I echo the comments above – this was a very interesting read. Thanks for stretching my mind today.

  10. Finally took time to read this. Thanks for sharing these three books. I’ve been reading about epigenetics in Functional Medicine at my job. So, glad to see it’s getting out to more people. Really, maybe by the end of this century we will see great strides in understanding health care is wellness being.

  11. Interestingly enough, I had just seen another reference to the Lipton book just before this arrived in my inbox.

    I’ve read “The Genie in Your Genes,” and despite the rather silly title, found it very useful. It’s written in an accessible and amusing style, too.

  12. Science has been very materialistic and Newtonian for 300-500 years after breaking from the Church. 80 years ago quantum physics gave science a new outlook that they just weren’t ready for. But these things take time and more and more scientists are acknowledging ‘The Consciousness field’ and the power of intent. There’s several great new theories of everything being advanced, and all of them agree using slightly different wording. When it gets into the mainstream it will rock the world. A lot of us have chosen not to wait and explore these theories with open minded skepticism and realize the uselessness of a belief. A belief replaces knowledge but passes as knowledge to the believer, leaving them too closed minded to learn. I really appreciate this post and love seeing Light being spread to fellow Beings. The future is only a probability until you make a choice and create the next experience, IMO.

  13. My mother and her mother died when they were relatively young (38, 60 respectively). Both my grandfather’s smoked heavily and lived well into their seventies. I’ve had friends who have died young – in their 20s and 30s – and I have friends now who live a very healthy life on the surface yet are always ill. Others I know burn the midnight oil so to speak and are full of life.

    What’s my point? Well, I loved the article and enjoy this kind of debate, especially as I have a degree in Biology and cite Richard Dawkins as a powerful influence when I was studying. Personally I still believe your genes are very powerful in determining your fate. However, I too am becoming increasing aware that our environment is causing widespread illness. But it isn’t just overeating, drinking , or smoking. My grandfather’s used to enjoy life, and lived to a good age (75, 78) considering they were born in WW1, and both fought in WW2.

    The real killer is my mind is stress. Either from work, social pressure, or status anxiety, this is the real illness in my mind. I wouldn’t say stop working. But stop worrying.

    • Sebastian Hayes

      Yes, I’d agree with that “the real killer is stress” . Religion, or at any rate the more recent ones, was invented to be “the heart of a heartless world” as Marx (of all people) put it. i.e. to reduce stress. But it has largely failed, either because it brought new anxieties such as fear of hell or because it simply didn’t square with the facts. But science does not even aim or wish to reduce pain and stress — that’s strictly outside the curriculum — which is why science is completely useless on an individual level and why more and more people are desperately looking in other directions, often wrong ones. Buddhism is probably the religion that is most successful in combating stress (but at a heavy cost) which is why in the West (but not the East) it is growing. The East seems to have adopted materialism as its panacea. But yes, stop worrying, I agree — of one can. Sebastian Hayes

      • Thanks for your response. I did a Buddhist retreat a few years ago in the UK and most people there were there because they were on the verge of a breakdown through stress or addiction. I was there because it looked interesting. So I totally agree with you there.

    • I think you nailed it right there, Philip. Having said that, I really enjoyed this post and the clarity with which it was written. Thank you, Ellis Nelson!
      It seems clear that we’re all somewhat a product of various ingredients that make up our psychological and physical ‘soup’. How the various ingredients combine is still an issue under investigation – an investigation I’m so pleased we’re at last having. Research seems to indicate that even our memories can be encoded in our DNA and passed down through the generations, adding yet another layer of complexity. As I suffer from a chronic and debilitating condition, I’m all too keen to explore the ways in which I might reset my physicality through conscious intent. Toxic environments have played the biggest part in the aetiology of my disease, though genetic predisposition kind of set me up for a fall.

  14. Sebastian Hayes

    Dear Ellis, I do hope you’re right, i.e. that we can change our destiny. But science has been piling on ‘proof after proof’ that we are helpless puppets of a combination of genetic and environmental determinism. This is one reason why people in the hyper affluent modern world are scarcely if at all happier than people in past disastrous epochs who “just got on with things” and at least believed their future on the other side, or in subsequent incarnations, was under their control. There is a dreadful plausibility about reductionism : it is up to people to demonstrate practically — not just theoretically– that it is an inadequate point of view. How to do this? By changing yourself — hopefully for the better. Very good blog. Maybe you could say more about the book “The Genie in your Genes”? Sebastian Hayes

  15. That’s like saying that men are supposed to cheat because the genes who survived were the ones of the men who slept around. Just because a gene can cause something doesn’t mean it’s certain.

    • I took it quite the other way, Bethany. That is, I believe that what Ellis is saying is that our genes are not at all 100% pre-determinants of our behaviours or of our physical states. Rather, that our thought processes, life choices and behaviours strongly mediate that which was once thought to be almost entirely genetically determined. Our choices, thoughts and emotions are, in fact, capable of altering gene expression.

  16. Dr. Dispenza’s book was a good read. He tied together some things I’ve been thinking about for years. He brings the notion of the quantum field into everyday life. For that alone it is a should-read.

  17. I read & have the first book which I believe to be a brilliant one… a breakthrough actually!

  18. For some reason I just knew this before I read it. I believe that we can change our genes for better or for worse by simply believing we can.

  19. Beautiful Truth…great post, as always!

  20. I like to think that our dreams can become our destiny. Believe.

  21. Fascinating but not entirely surprising. I have always believed that the mind as well as the environment is capable of making physical as well as mental changes for good or ill.

  22. Very intriguing and worthwhile. Reductionism often grossly oversimplifies, and belief in a black and white absolute truth, such as “nature” or “nurture,” is delusional and it is intellectual laziness. I cannot say that this concept surprises me in my case but nice to see it brought to light. Once minor contention. “Identical” twins are not truly identical. In fact truly identical things do not exist if examined closely enough.

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