Not Convinced That Man Could Improve on Nature

As an organic chemist with a major pharmaceutical company, Dr David Hamilton was on a good salary, developing a new generation of drugs by synthesising molecules found in nature. But Dr Hamilton was never convinced that man could improve on nature, and instead was becoming more and more fascinated by the potential healing power of the mind. So, inspired by his body’s ability to withstand heat during fire-walking, he began a quest to investigate the mysteries of the mind-body connection. It was the beginning of a journey which brought him into contact with alternative therapists, spiritual teachers and faith healers, and was to inspire him to try and fill Hampden stadium with thousands of people all thinking positive thoughts.

He also began hosting seminars where he encouraged people to believe in the power of their mind to positively improve their health.

Unlike many self-help gurus, Dr Hamilton backs his arguments with scientific research and combines his work with a post as a part-time lecturer in chemistry at Glasgow University.

In his first book, It’s The Thought That Counts, he will put forward the scientific arguments about the mysterious mind-body connection and argue that powerful human states such as happiness and optimism can actually change your DNA.

"I’m interested in the whole self-improvement thing but I am the only scientist talking about it," he says.

His interest in the power of the human spirit began when he was working as an organic chemist for a major pharmaceutical company. Put in the fast-track by the company because of his skill in the field, Dr Hamilton worked on creating new drugs by re-creating molecular structures found in nature with slight differences in order to develop new drugs. "You study nature’s molecules and re-create them slightly differently. You might make 10,000 versions of the same molecule and study the effects," he says. "The idea is to take nature and improve on it."

However, he was not sure that was the right approach. He was also becoming uneasy about the way pharmaceutical companies were operating, particularly in the developing world, and became fascinated by the placebo effect, the scientific principle which shows that in drug trials, people given sugar pills often recover just as well as those on other medication. "On average, placebo effects cure anything between 30 to 90 per cent. That has been written up in many scientific journals. I thought, ‘Why not see if you could extend it’," he says.

It's The Thought That Counts. The book shows the effects of thoughts and feelings on the body, even showing the effects upon our DNA, citing recent discoveries in science like depriving an infant of its mother’s loving touch switches off genes responsible for growth. The second half of the book extends this to look at effects on our personal lives and collective effects of collective thinking, offering up a single message that love, compassion, and kindness really can make a huge difference in the world.

Questions and Answers

by Trung Nguyen

Why did you leave a lucrative career as a Scientist?

The main reason that I left my scientist career was because, ever since I was a child, I had an interest in the mind and metaphysics and my great desire was always to write and teach. I wanted to teach about things that might inspire people to be more consciously loving. I was attending a Tony Robbins, “Unleash The Power Within" seminar in the UK in 1999 when I made up my mind that I had to do what I believed in. So I resigned from work the next day.

I was very much aware of the placebo effect when I worked as a scientist. That’s where, say, 100 people get a drug and, say, 70 get better. Then 100 get a placebo (dummy drug) and maybe 40 get better, mostly because they believe it’s a real drug. This forms the basis of what I write and teach about – that the mind can influence the body.

You were “never convinced that man could improve on nature.” As they apply to pharmaceutical drugs, what are some of the limits that would prevent man from improving on Nature?

Basically, many pharmaceutical drugs are derived from natural products that nature has spent millions of years evolving. What I was referring to in this statement is that many of the molecules in the body (proteins and enzymes) are gigantic, complex molecules whose full range of functions we don’t even fully understand. So I doubt we are close to improving upon them if we don’t even fully understand what they do.

When you did your research into the mind, you found that our thoughts can change our DNA. How does this happen? What is the science behind it?

Our thoughts produce electrical and chemical changes in the brain. Some of the chemicals (neuropeptides) travel through the bloodstream and interact with cells all over the body. Cells adapt to their environment, just as we do. If you went out in the cold, you would put on a jacket. You would have adapted to your environment. Much of a cell’s environment is made up chemicals swimming around, some of which come from the brain on account of what you are thinking about. Thus, your thoughts alter the environment around cells.

This sends different information into the cell, some of which reaches DNA. And just as we adapt to our environment, and cells adapt to theirs, so DNA adapts to its environment. It’s environment is influenced by the chemicals produced by our thoughts. And these chemicals can switch genes ‘on’ and ‘off’. So, in this way, our thoughts bring about changes in whether certain genes are ‘on’ or ‘off’.

Do pharmaceutical companies deliberately design their drugs:

A. to only suppress symptoms and not cure any illness or disease?

It’s sometimes to suppress symptoms and other times to cure, and depends a lot on how much understanding there is of a specific disease. It’s hard to refer to a company as a whole on this, because I only experienced working with scientists. When we refer to a pharmaceutical company in this way, we are really referring to those who make the top decisions.

I did have a discussion with a director once because I felt that the sole focus of the company should be about saving lives. He was a nice man, and agreed with me ‘in principle’ but he said he had a responsibility to the shareholders. If he didn’t create shareholder value, and turn over a profit for the shareholders, then he’d lose his job. He hoped that his wish to save lives would influence the types of decisions that were made. He implied that saving lives was a priority but so, also, was making a profit. I suspect that with many companies, it’s the latter that is given most attention, but not because people don’t care (OK. Maybe some don’t so much, but I think they are the minority).

B. to be addictive as to create a physiological dependence?

That wasn’t my experience when I worked there. Most scientists, to be honest, just want to make a difference in the world. They are just ordinary people, with their kids, trying to get by. I didn’t personally know anyone who would have made such a decision.

C. to make money as the primary goal?

As I said above...

What is your view on the theory that cures for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have already been discovered but they are being suppressed? Or that the pharmaceutical industry could find cures for those diseases if it wanted to but has no financial motive for doing so?

It would be easy for me to say that I believed this, because I have heard many people’s opinions, but I don’t like pointing fingers if I don’t have all the facts. I can only speak from experience and, to be honest, I don’t really know. I wasn’t aware of any hidden magic bullets when I worked in the industry, but maybe there is. I did know that they tended to try to make synthetic versions of nature’s molecules and get a patent on them. Then the PR people they would try to downplay the natural versions (as is the case with herbal remedies).

I think the scientists would love to find cures for many other diseases but most big companies won’t invest in the R&D because it’s so costly and they probably don’t see how they could get their investment back. I don’t think the shareholders would allow it. I don’t know if there’s any dark motive going on.

Are you aware of any psychological or physiological long-term effects of antidepressants?

I don’t know much about the long-term effects of anti-depressants.

It’s been said that every drug has side effects. Where do the side effects come from?

Many drugs operate by interacting with a cell or an enzyme in a specific way. But they rarely act on just one specific type of cell or enzyme. They act on others too and it is through this ‘double action’ so to speak, that many side effects occur.

Here is a quote related to genes, “Consortium researchers have confirmed the existence of 19,599 protein-coding genes in the human genome and identified another 2,188 DNA segments that are predicted to be protein-coding genes.”

Does the word ‘protein’ in the statement refer to the same type of protein that is found in our diet (legumes, eggs, fish, etc.)?

It sort of means the same, but not entirely. Proteins are the building blocks of the body but they also transmit information (hormones) and help to transform substances into other substances (enzymes).

The word proteins refers to the fact that it is composed of amino acids. When a gene switches on, its ‘code’ is read and a protein is manufactured. So anything in the body that is composed of amino acids is a protein.

Proteins that we eat in our diet are mostly the ones that compose muscle fibres...known as structural proteins....but this is only a subgroup of the larger term, which includes hormones (like insulin, for example) and enzymes (that digest our food, for instance).

Dr Hamilton's Website

It's The Thought That Counts. The book shows the effects of thoughts and feelings on the body, even showing the effects upon our DNA, citing recent discoveries in science like depriving an infant of its mother’s loving touch switches off genes responsible for growth. The second half of the book extends this to look at effects on our personal lives and collective effects of collective thinking, offering up a single message that love, compassion, and kindness really can make a huge difference in the world.


The idea that form follows thought and feeling is not a new one to mystics, but quantum physicists have now shown that this to be a scientifically proven reality. A massive shift in peoples understanding is occurring to take the implications of this on board and integrate it into our lives. Trained chemist Dr David Hamilton's interest in this topic was inspired by the field research tests he conducted for chemical companies. Realising that placebo tests produced comparable results with the sample that received the actual drug, David set about understanding why. His research has resulted in this accessible and extraordinary book, in which he has assembled all the research to create a convincing and inspiring case for the power of compassion and kindness to really make a difference in the world.

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