Book Review: “The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life” by Robert O. Becker, M.D., and Gary Selden

If you read a lot of books that highlight research in the paranormal field, you will often come across references to Dr. Becker’s experiments regarding electrical currents in the body. Dr. Becker began his career as an orthopedic surgeon in 1956 and soon began doing experiments on salamanders to understand the mechanism that allows for limb regeneration. His research was controversial but ultimately led to discoveries in how electrical currents properly directed within a wound can dedifferentiate cells. Once the cells have dedifferentiated, mRNA could direct those cells to now differentiate into what is needed to repair the wound. Understanding all of this took some very slow reading (and re-reading) plus many visits to YouTube to relearn basic biological processes.

 

Ultimately, the part of the book people are referring to is not his research on regeneration but instead Part 4 and that starts on page 230. Please note, Dr. Becker does not state anything about the paranormal field in his book. This portion is focused on how natural and man-made EMF affects the human body and his research when tasked to a DOD oversight committee reviewing large antennas that were to be placed in the United States. When paranormal researchers talk about how EMF may cause dizziness, headaches, hallucinations, paranoia, and various other symptoms, these are the studies they are using as evidence of these claims. There are several studies noted in this 100 pages of the book so if you are looking for this information, you can find it here.  

Would I recommend this book? This really depends on what you are looking for. If you want general information on EMF then there are likely easier books to read. If you just want to know about specific research on EMF effects on the body, I would recommend reading the last section of this book and ignoring the first 3 parts. BUT if you are serious about research and understanding the full picture, Dr. Becker’s experiments are interesting. Just be prepared to do some intense relearning of basic biological processes. 

Pros: This book really made me think about environmental and man-made EMF in not just the paranormal field but in our day-to-day life. Dr. Becker’s research on regeneration is fascinating. This book is good exercise for your brain and pushes you to expand your thinking beyond what you are likely accustomed to. One of my neuroscience faculty members noted that she thought it was quite funny that I chose to read a medical textbook instead of a good romance novel during my breaks. 

Cons: This book is not easy reading. You will have to work to understand what is being discussed (it is worth it if you enjoy research). In the last section, I did feel like some statements were giant leaps. This is likely due to Dr. Becker’s reference to so many different research studies in this section; which is a distinct difference from the in-depth process he took during the first three quarters of the book. The last chapter is about the politics of science. As someone who currently works with academic scientists, I understand what he is saying here but it also comes off as complaining. It is not necessary to read this chapter to understand the research results but it is useful if you want to understand why you don’t always hear about certain types of research. 

You can purchase your own copy of the book here.

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