A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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reader comments: Velikovsky

23 Dec 2001

I am sure you receive many letters a year ranting about trivialities. I am no different. (I am, however, a graduate student of physics and a moderate believer in the paranormal). I found your article on Immanuel Velikovsky to be quite harsh. I don't intend to rant, so I will be short. Mr. Velikovsky put forward several other books relating to "Worlds in Collision" which did not contain the historical "evidence", namely "Earth in Upheavel" where he presented geological evidence. Furthermore some of his prediction of the atmospheric temperature and composition of Venus are amazingly accurate (especially considering the theories of the day).

As a side note about "manna", last week scientists discovered a meteor on earth that contained a "sugarlike substance".

I don't think that Mr. Velikovsky deserves to be regarded as "discredited" quite yet.

Merry Christmas!

Jim Cairn

reply: You should read David Morrison's article "Velikovsky at Fifty" in the current issue of Skeptic magazine [vol 9, no 1, 2001]. Morrison addresses the materials of people like Lynn Rose, Bargmann, Motz, and Velikovsky himself, who proclaimed the accuracy of some of V's claims. For example, Velikovsky was right that Venus is hot but wrong in how he came to that conclusion. He thought it was because Venus is a recent planet violently ejected from Jupiter and having traveled close to the sun. Venus is hot because of the greenhouse effect, something V. never mentioned. As to the composition of the atmosphere of Venus, V thought it was hydrogen rich with hydrocarbon clouds. NASA put out an erroneous report in 1963 that said Mariner 2 had found evidence of hydrocarbon clouds. In 1973 it was determined that the clouds are made mainly of sulfuric acid particles. V was also right about Jupiter issuing radio emissions, but wrong as to why. He thought it was because of the electrically charged atmosphere brought on by the turbulence created by the expulsion of Venus. The radio emissions, however, are not related to the atmosphere but to "Jupiter's strong magnetic field and the ions trapped within it" (Morrison 65).

There is more, but I refer you to Morrison's article for all the details that justify continuing to treat Dr. V as a pseudoscientist, even if a very interesting one.

See also: "An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions"  and A lesson from Velikovsky by Leroy Ellenberger.

21 Dec 2001
In the opening paragraph of "Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision" you state that he associates his claims with the myth that Athena (whom Velikovsky identifies with the planet Venus) sprang from the head of Zeus. What troubles me is that, Venus in ancient Greece, was a planet/star that was associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Goddess of love and beauty) and not Athena. In fact, her Roman counterpart was actually named Venus. That being said, I don't understand how he would make this myth supportive of his theory, as he just can't turn around and associate Greek gods/goddesses to whatever planet he pleases.

Jean-Michel Cormier

reply: Geniuses make their own rules.

Just a couple of quibbles about the Velikovsky entry:

Sagan misrepresents Velikovsky who never wrote that the comet and the Earth graze. The comet makes a close approach.

"According to Velikovsky, the comet also caused the Earth to stop rotating."

Velikovsky quotes many ancient texts recording that the movement of the Sun and Moon appeared to stop in the sky. Velikovsky himself says "..there are physical problems.. the actual results of such a slowing down of the angular momentum of rotation would depend on the manner in which it occurred." It was Peter Warlow who showed how the Earth's rotation could be apparently reversed without the Earth stopping, using a similar mechanism to a 'tippe top' (SIS Review, Vol III No 4, Spring 1979, page 100). Even Sagan himself says '..it is easy to see that a gradual deceleration of the Earth's rotation at about 10(^-2)g could occur in a period of less than a day.'

"Sagan refutes Velikovsky's claim that Jupiter ejected a comet which became Venus by examining the amount of kinetic energy needed."

Sagan forgets to include in his calculations the rotational speed of Jupiter. Sagan also forgets to include the difference in rotational speed of Jupiter now, and at the time of ejection, which would have caused Jupiter to slow (conservation of angular momentum). Sagan mistakenly uses an escape velocity for an object reaching an orbit extending to infinity, rather than one required to produce an elliptical orbit (71% less). All these factors substantially reduce the energy required.

--Ian Tresman

reply: Now, if we could only harness all the energy used to do these monumental calculations, maybe we could save the world!

20 Nov 1996
On Velikovsky - I support entirely your comments about Velikovsky's lack of scientific rigour. There is no possibility of Venus coming from Jupiter. But if you read Velikovsky - that is only one interpretation of what happened from the accounts he reports. He got it wrong; but don't ignore the evidence, just his interpretation.

A far more logical interpretation to my mind is that a large comet had a close encounter with Jupiter which swung it in our direction. It then came toward earth with a very bright coma. It passed earth close by, and went away (with all reported effects). 52 years later it returned, came past earth and hit Venus. Venus then went from dull to very bright, and has been slowly dimming since.

That is still an awful lot of close encounters in a very short space of time - and is a highly improbable scenario - but sometimes shit happens. It is, at least, consistent with the laws of physics as we know them, and with reported phenomena.

Worth a thought perhaps ?
Ted Howard
New Zealand

reply: Worth a thought, perhaps, but it has little to do with Velikovsky. David Morrison read my original comments and showed me the error of my ways. He writes:

Velikovsky focuses narrowly on encounters between the Earth and planets -- Mars and Venus. While he refers to Venus being accompanied by debris, the dominant agents of his catastrophes are tidal, chemical, and electrical interactions between planets, not meteoritic impacts. Remarkably, Velikovsky did not even accept (let alone predict) that the lunar craters are the result of impacts -- rather, he ascribed them to lava "bubbles" and to electric discharges. I see nothing in his vision that relates to our current understanding of interplanetary debris and the role of impacts in geological and biological evolution. I conclude that Velikovsky was fundamentally wrong in both his vision of planetary collisions (or near collisions) and in his failure to recognize the role of smaller impacts and collisions in solar system history.

Morrison's article "Velikovsky at Fifty" is published in Skeptic magazine [vol 9, no 1, 2001]. Morrison argues that Velikovsky is being given way too much credit for influencing or being ahead of his time on the issue of catastrophism. He writes

In preparing my Skeptic article "Velikovsky at 50" I corresponded with 25 leading contemporary scientists who have played a significant role in the development of this "new catastrophism" to ask what influence, if any, Velikovsky had on their work. The statements of these scientists indicate that none of them saw any value in Velikovsky's theories, and that Velikovsky's reputation sometimes impeded acceptance of their own work, or at least was an irritant when they described their work to the public. I was also struck by how easily these scientists (by their own report) rejected Velikovsky. Note that these are not conservative, ivory-tower academics, constitutionally prejudiced against new ideas. They have been among the most creative and revolutionary researchers in their fields. Like all successful research scientists, however, they are used to making quick judgments concerning which evidence is more likely to be accurate and relevant, which research directions more promising. This quick judgment against Velikovsky by scientists separates these academics from those who wished (or still wish) to give Velikovsky the benefit of the doubt, to look for some lasting value in his work. The supporting material, with quotes from these scientists, appears in my article in Skeptic 9:1:62 (2001).

Morrison's article will also be published in Skeptic: Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, edited by Michael Shermer, due out in August 2002. The price will be $185, according to Amazon.com.

25 Nov 1996
Regarding Velikovsky, the slant given the article was that Velikovsky's work is religious in nature and that Sagan sets Velikovksy's theories in order and mostly discredits them.

Sagan's forays on Velikovsky would indicate some degree of professional jealousy to anyone familiar with the works of Velikovsky. Sagan certainly was not professional with his demonstrations against Velikovsky on Educational Television and neither were you on your article in the Skeptic's Dictionary on Velikovsky.

reply: Thank you. I missed the "unprofessional" Sagan but I feel I am in good company.

Before rendering an opinion on anyone's work, including Velikovsky, it would be wise to consider all the person's work and not form an opinion on a skimmed-over reading of that person's most controversial book. Anyone reading Velikovsky to ascertain if he were or not "religious" would find the time wasted. Velikovsky was meticulous to avoid any tone of a religious nature and was constantly using literature from all corners of the world to indicate points for consideration. He was careful to avoid stating a personal view, probably realizing the resistance his works would meet and knowing there would be persistent critiques of himself and his work because he happened to be a Russian Jew.

Velikovsky never did refer to the New Testament of the Bible. He did refer to certain writings of the Old Testament wherever pertinent but never where it did not parallel other writings from outside the religious arena unless you want to consider some of his references to Indian and Chinese writings where some of those writings are religiously revered.

Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision was not critiqued on anything except for those few areas where he used the Old Testament to indicate a corroboration of other writings. Neither did you refer to his many other works. I must conclude that you are mostly careful to discredit anyone who uses any part of the Bible in their works. You appear critical of anyone who would dare use what is universally considered good history by anyone who has the credentials to evaluate ancient writings.

reply: You are correct here, Robert, and so I have revised my entry on Velikovsky to indicate that I don't have a clue what his motivations are. But you are correct. He is an equal opportunity mythologist and pseudohistorian

Anyone who would read Velikovsky Reconsidered from the University of [the State of] Washington's magazine Pensée would see the railroading job done on Velikovsky and it would appear that you are also on that train.

Instead of reviewing Velikovsky, you found someone who has been extremely critical of Velikovsky to do your dirty work for you. However, you have brought your own expertise into question along with the Skeptic's Dictionary itself. The first premise of the Skeptic's Dictionary is "The only thing infinite is our capacity for self-deception" and you have apparently written your own epitaph. Instead of a question, it's a statement that aptly describes your situation, taking the article on Velikovsky as a gauge.

When you read Velikovsky's works, read them all and try to read the works which are referenced. Several times in Velikovsky's works, he mentions that what he's writing is not provable but is an indication from several sources. By implying in the article that Velikovsky's sole source is the Bible paints an erroneous view of his work and in turn, it paints a pretty clear picture of YOUR mindset.

reply: You should have stopped while you were ahead, Robert. Now you are getting away from good argument into the realm of ad hominem attack, not to mention being self-refuting. (If you were consistent, you would judge the Skeptic's Dictionary by all its entries, not just this one.) This is not befitting a scholar of your magnitude. And while I agree that one should judge a person by all his work, not just part of it, I don't claim to judge Velikovsky. My scope is limited to his World's in Collision. For me, that is enough of this type of "scholarship" for several lifetimes.

Velikovsky had impeccable credentials and was a close friend of Einstein at Princeton. Also being aware of intercollegiate jealousy, I cannot but come to some pretty low conclusions for professionalism for some quarters at Cornell and UC Davis.

reply: A close friend of Einstein's, you say. Well, you've got me there. I can't compete on the genius-friends level. Did you know Einstein, too? I think Sagan knows some pretty smart people, too, at Cornell and other places. By the way, I assume you meant to revile my college when you referred to UC Davis, but I have never been employed there.

Dictionaries do not editorialize. Dictionary editors mark their work for posterity if the information is incorrect or slanted toward error. These are simple and basic foundations for this kind of editor and I'm frankly surprised to find your bias and prejudice has so influenced your work. All your work must now be cautiously accepted, if at all.

reply: Are these Robert's rules of order in a chaotic universe? Anyway, I've recently changed the title of The Skeptic's Dictionary to

The Skeptic's Dictionary :
wherein are defined occult, paranormal, supernatural and pseudoscientific terms
with references whereby readers may arm themselves against the forces of unreason
with occasional biased comments by the author

I hope you like the new title, even if you don't like the book.

Instead of marking Velikovsky as one who tries to bring others to his erroneous ideology, I must come to the same conclusion with you and your school. Truth is not something to be accepted merely because it is in print. Checking the related documents brings Velikovsky clearly into the foreground of original thought which may not be totally correct, by his own admission, but his data was proposed more as "possibility" than fact, along with many other documents that seem to say the same thing or something very similar. Nothing more!

reply: Wow! I must have hit your v-spot or something. This stuff's really got you excited. My school? What are you talking about? You're not going to generalize to all skeptics on the basis of one article by one skeptic, are you? As to Velikovsky's originality, I've never denied it. As to his proposing improbable or merely possible things as tentative, I have to disagree. He frequently uses expressions of certitude, such as "must have" and "can only be explained by." Where is the tentativeness in this: "The birth of Pallas Athene on her first visit to earth was the cause of a cosmic disturbance, and the memory of that catastrophe was "a day of wrath in all the calendars of ancient Chaldea." [p. 181]

It's significant that pseudo-scientists react so violently to ideas that they feel are counter to what they consider to be common knowledge. Where you should desire credibility, you should also desire recognition from those who check out the data and know it to be true or credible, at least. The Skeptic's Dictionary is much more than what the title would lead readers to believe but the "more" is not something you cannot use to bolster your pride.
Bob Lunsford

reply: I assume you meant that as an insult. I'll interpret it that way, though I admit I could be wrong.

10 Sep 1997
Yesterday Bob Kobres e-mailed me a copy of your write up of Worlds in Collision. My first inclination was to thank you for linking to my SKEPTIC article and to tell you, on the basis of my cursory skimming, what a nice essay you put together. After reading it last night, however, I wish to bring to your attention some problems I believe exist with this discussion.

Although I agree that it is not a bad job, it could with little extra effort be a very good treatment. As it stands, Lynn Rose, Lew Greenberg, Irving Wolfe and Charles Ginenthal, for starters, could have a field day with your essay, similar to what was done to Sagan in "Sagan and Velikovsky". I would not go to the obsessive lengths Ginenthal et al. have done recently in the two new books you mention in your text; but I do wish to share with you my major reservations. For background, Sagan's analysis of WiC was not composed with the goal of showing supporters why Velikovsky is wrong; but, rather, with showing an uninformed reader (someone who had not read what V wrote) how crazy the book is. I say this because the AAAS session in 1974 was convened due to the popular support for Velikovsky that Pensee magazine had stirred up and that series of issues had developed a basis of support for Velikovsky that Sagan essentially ignored, besides the fact that in large part he criticized a straw man of his own making. For example, a close reading of the book shows that Velikovsky was not writing about grazing collisions; yet that was what Sagan examined in his Appendix 1 (see Kogan's letter in Sept. 1980 Physics Today, e.g., on this point).

Most, if not all, of Sagan's errors were exposed in 1977 in KRONOS III:2, sold under the title "Velikovsky and Establishment Science" (even still). You can imagine my surprise several years ago searching the stacks here at Wash. Univ. in St. Louis for a book and see this title staring back at my on level three! Anyway, for all its deficiencies, this volume pins Sagan on many errors and contains Velikovsky's own (partial) rebuttal to Sagan. You cite both Scientists Confront Velikovsky (containing Sagan's analysis) and the revised version in Broca's Brain and cite the latter in your essay. Some day, compare the texts of the two versions and you'll find many differences. For example, on the escape velocity from Jupiter, Sagan first used 70 km/sec, which was changed to 60 km/sec for Broca's Brain. Curiously, 70 km/sec is the value Lloyd Motz used in April 1967 Yale Scientific exchange with Velikovsky (and V corrected Motz at that time), but Carl did not pick up on this. Basically, at the time there was a rebuttal to Sagan's treatment of escape from Jupiter, using the technical literature, but Sagan never dealt with it. Yeah, Sagan and company dealt only with what V wrote, ignoring a large body of secondary material by V's defenders that seemed to people like me that V could be defended on valid grounds. The fact that most of this secondary material was flawed was never pointed out by Sagan and the other AAAS speakers, and later by other commentators, such as George Abell, etc. So, many of the points you choose to highlight have further elaboration beyond the simple case Sagan dealt with.

The most serious issue I think you should deal with is the notion that Velikovsky took the Bible to be the literal truth, etc. One of the reasons I felt Velikovsky was credible (at the time) was the fact that I recognized that he DID NOT take such texts as the literal truth. It was clear to me that he accepted a realistic underpinning of certain "miracles" and discounted the fantastic aspects as an later elaboration to what was originally a real event. Thus with manna, V gave this credence because it was supported by manna-like accounts from other cultures, e.g., the ambrosia of the Greeks, etc. V rejected the notion that manna did not fall on the seventh day precisely because it was so unrealistic; yet Sagan criticizes V for accepting this aspect (when V specifically rejected it!) This is not honest debate (but it never was a really debate). This issue is discussed by Velikovsky on pp. 24-25 and pp. 26-27 of V&ES. If you'd like, tell me your street address and I’ll mail copies of these pages to you. V also had a explanation why the Egyptian's had a problem with falling buildings, but the Jews did not.

If you read the Physics Today letter cited above you'll see how bad Sagan did with his probabilities. But probability is beside the point. All actual events have a very low probability of happening, yet improbable events happen all the time. The crux is to establish whether or not the events really happened, not how unlikely they are. In July 1946 Einstein read the Venus part of WiC and wrote back on July 8th that V had shown that global catastrophes of extraterrestrial origin happened in 2nd millennium BC, but that Venus, most emphatically, was not the agent. V took comfort from the endorsement and ignored the bad news. Yes, this is ad hominem; but many have seen in certain myths, etc., that at some early time the sky was a threatening source: Whiston, Radlof, Donnelly, Hoerbiger, Bellamy, Beaumont, etc. Clube & Napier, too, were impressed on the basis of Bellamy's (screwball version) work that the myths were trying to tell us something and they came up with their Taurid Complex model which explains Velikovsky's "data" in terms of an astronomically feasible physical model. Sagan and his ilk (such as Chapman and Morrison in 1989) take the position that since V's model of colliding planets is crazy (a word used in correspondence with me), then there is no truth in the myths/data. What absolutely blew me away in the early 90s was reading Bob Kobres's paper on how the story of Phaethon can be seen as an account of a post perihelion comet passing closely BEHIND Earth: from certain longitudes, this body would be seen to rise as a Sun for 5 hrs, stand still for ca. 30 min. (while doubling in diam.) and then crash to the horizon in ca. 15 min. As I note in my SKEPTIC article that you cite, such an occurrence could well be the kernel of truth in the Sun standing still for Joshua. [To show how impoverished some scholarly insights can be, there are several papers in the literature that claim this "long day" is an account of a solar eclipse!--which I never found persuasive.] And, of course, with Joshua, there is the hail of "barad", which can be taken to be meteorites and Clube & Napier would have no problem with them coming from the debris stream accompanying their proto-Encke, progenitor of the Taurid streams.

Because of all the problems I continue to have with Sagan's specific arguments, I developed my own "Top Ten Reasons Why Velikovsky Is Wrong About Worlds in Collision", which Tim Thompson posted for me on talk.origins in mid-August this year. Search DejaNews on "ellenberger AND Velikovsky" and one of the three or four hits will be the Top Ten.

Despite the foregoing fulminating, I really do like what you have written, especially for the tone, but you really are off base in parroting Sagan on V's literal use of sources and diehards like Ginenthal would take great delight in skewering you on other "debatable" points.

Have you seen the two books that Ginenthal put together recently? I have borrowed them from Bauer, to whom they were sent gratis so he'd be on record as having gotten them. Just as Sagan was sent V&ES in 1977, which he promptly ignored. Even when Kogan (V's older daughter) criticized him in Physics Today (sponsored by Freeman Dyson in the interests of fair play), Sagan did not reply (as he had replied to Robert Jastrow in NYT in late 1979), but David Morrison had a point-by-point rebuttal in 4/81 P.T. Well, seeing G'thal's books was very depressing for me. Such obsessiveness. Bauer told me he could not dredge up the energy/interest to read Gould & Velikovsky; but eventually he found the fortitude. So, when I saw Sagan's Demon-Haunted World ignored Velikovsky, I wrote Sagan wondering why, since this would have been a good chance for him to show how self-correcting science really was with him acknowledging his mistakes in SCV and Broca's Brain (note that the latter did undergo much revision, but little correction). His reply in effect denied he was aware of any errors in his treatment of WiC! Well, I wrote back that his App. 3 is totally fallacious; no "cooling" is demonstrated, only the IDENTITY that the heat radiated by Sun to Venus in ca. 60 min. equals that radiated by Venus at 79 K in 3500 years. No reply from him. I'll send you copies of this correspondence if you send me you address, as requested above. And, what he heck, I'll forward to you the Top Ten.
Leroy Ellenberger


10. The "sequence of planetary orbits" that conserves angular momentum does NOT conserve energy, creating an enormous energy surplus, far more serious than Rose's mere "energy disposal problem," which is an example of the _petitio principii_ fallacy (see Kronos II:4, p. 60 [and below]).

9. Orbit of Venus CANNOT circularize on Velikovsky's time scale, regardless what Einstein allegedly said in 1955; electromagnetism is no panacea & chaos theory cannot save the phenomenon, contrary to the wishful thinking of Bass.

8. Circular, resonant orbits of the moons of Earth & Mars betray no sign of recent disturbance, indicated by Velikovsky, or later capture, as Van Flandern noted in 1979 & of which Rose is willfully ignorant.

7. Since close encounters drastically increase inclination, the small inclinations of the orbits of Venus & Mars belie the multiple near-collisions outlined by Velikovsky. [This point is obscured by the 2-dimensional n-body simulations that were performed on talk.origins in 1994 while testing Grubaugh's model.]

6. The debris Venus allegedly deposited in Earth's atmosphere causing 40 years of darkness after the Exodus left no trace in the world's ice caps or ocean bottoms, a test ignored by Rose.

5. The bristlecone pine survived the global catastrophe at 3500 BP that Velikovsky claimed killed all trees, to which he replied [to Ellenberger on Palm Sunday 1978] "So? They survived," indicating a cavalier attitude toward disconfirming evidence.

4. The continuity of flora & fauna on islands such as Hawaii [first noted by Roger Ashton at San Jose, Ca, Conf. in 1980 and later in C&C Workshop 1986:1, p. 5] shows they were not overrun by globe-girdling tidal waves at 3500 BP when the "Sun" stood still for Joshua, as Velikovsky claimed, an illusion produced by a post-perihelion comet passing *behind* Earth, as Bob Kobres explained for Phaethon;

3. The year was not 360 d. between 3500 BP & 2700 BP, as Velikovsky claimed, because at 3200 BP the Chinese reckoned the summer solstice recurred 548 d. after the winter solstice, i.e., 365.25x1.5=547.875, a datum smugly ignored by Rose in "From Calendars to Chronology," making the "Velikovsky Divide" a fraud & delusion, [in D.A. Pearlman (ed.), Stephen J. Gould and Immanuel Velikovsky (1996) wherein Rose avers "I have always wanted revenge on the various villains of the Velikovsky Affair, whether from 1950 or from 1965 or from 1974" (p. 702). The book is a petty, ponderous, mean-spirited, wrong-headed, and vindictive collaboration of Ginenthal, Wolfe, Rose, Cardona, D.N. Talbott, & Cochrane].

2. Magellan images of Venus reveal a crust too thick to have been molten 3500 years ago, & if the 900 large craters on Venus were so young then Earth would be expected to have more than the <20 craters of comparable size it does have. [NOTE Added by Tim Thompson: Also see my article "Is the Planet Venus Young?" http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/venus-young.html ]

1. Since Venus is too massive EVER to have had a VISIBLE tail, cometary behavior ascribed to the DEITY Inanna-Ishtar applies NOT to PLANET Venus, as Velikovsky & such naive epigoni as Cardona, Cochrane & Rose claim, but to a real COMET, now defunct or absent, which was ALSO sacred to Inanna-Ishtar, as Clube & Napier propose in The Cosmic Winter (1990); lesson: Inanna does not necessarily refer to Venus since she was ALSO associated with Moon, Sirius, etc. Thus, Inanna, NOT Venus, was hailed by the Mesopotamians as "Queen of the Zenith"[--an allusion to Sirius, a position never occupied by Venus in the putative "polar configuration"].

0. The revised chronology fares no better because the 10th century BCE, where Velikovsky places the XVIIIth Dynasty pharaohs coeval with the Minoan eruption of Thera, contains no signal for this eruption [in the Greenland ice cores].

[These reasons present a prima facie difficulty for Velikovsky's position and support R.G.A.Dolby's arguments in S.I.S. Review I:3, 1976, 26-30 (adapted from Social Studies of Science 5, 1975, 165-175) and implicitly refute H. Meynell's reply to Dolby in which he claimed "...the impressiveness of Velikovsky's thesis is due as much to its coherence within itself as to its correspondence with ascertainable fact....that _one_ at first sight extremely improbable hypothesis, which should be liable to falsification in any number of ways, is in fact apparently confirmed in as many ways" (S.I.S. Review I:4, 1977, 5-8). The foregoing "Top Ten" would appear to contradict this assessment.]

Rose says "To undermine [an] argument, we need simply identify [the] false premisses[sic]." His false premises include (a) equating Inanna solely with Venus, a crude, ignorant reductionism, (b) treating religious texts as historical evidence for actual events instead of metaphors, & (c) over-emphasizing predictive power. In Kronos II:4, he should have said "to prove Velikovsky right you must assume Velikovsky right" & thereby ignore all the contrary physical evidence, which has priority over "historical" evidence which is subject to interpretation. Since Rose denies the absolute veto power of relevant evidence, he ignores it when he cannot pervert it. When Rose says "Velikovsky's critics had no decent arguments against him" & Wolfe says "there is no reason why Velikovsky...should be wrong _a priori_," [in Pearlman (ed.)] they merely show they, too, along with Ginenthal are each TRULY "an ignoramus masquerading as a sage"--deluded beyond redemption. [One of the gimmicks in Pearlman (ed.) is the classic Velikovskian tactic of turning a critic's words against him so that at every opportunity Henry Bauer is shown to be "an ignoramus masquerading as a sage", as Bauer showed Velikovsky to be in Beyond Velikovsky (1984).] Comments/questions welcome.

Leroy Ellenberger, 3929A Utah Street, St. Louis, MO 63116, USA Jan. 1997

reply: What more can I say? When I wrote to Mr. Ellenberger that I haven't had a student in years who has even heard of Velikovsky and that I no longer use Worlds in Collision as an example of pseudoscience in my critical thinking classes, he replied:

13 Sep 1997

I am getting into the swing of things in Skeptic's Dictionary and just read the reader comments on the Velikovsky entry and see much of what I wrote earlier has already been covered. Thus, I am surprised to see that, while you admit to having revised your entry on one point, you did not revise it regarding the literal use of the bible--which is a flat out misrepresentation on Sagan's part. I'll also mention that the 1974 version of his analysis referred to the Motz & Bargmann letter in Science (12/62, I think) and also said that is only 20% of V's sources were valid, there was something to be explained, but by 1977 when Scientists Confront Velikovsky came out the Science letter was gone and there was nothing to explain.

With Velikovsky and Einstein, from 1921-23 in Berlin, Einstein was the editor of a volume of collected science papers by Jewish scientists in a series whose general editor was Velikovsky, whose father funded the project. Einstein read the Venus part of WiC in July 1946, as I said previously, but they were not in contact again until 1952 when V moved to Princeton and chanced upon E at Lake Carnegie, where they exchanged pleasantries. When V addressed the Graduate Forum at Princeton in Oct 1953 (text in Earth in Upheaval) Einstein sent his secretary and another woman from his household. They gave a favorable report to E so that he and Velikovsky, then, met and corresponded often during the last 18 months of E's life. When E died, a copy of the German edition of WiC was open on his desk. This volume can be inspected at the Einstein archives in Israel, as several scholars have done.

Also, V spoke a more open-minded game than he played. At PSA 1974 at Notre Dame, IN, Friedlander pointed out several instances where V had misrepresented his sources, one being what Lyttleton said about a fission origin for Venus from Jupiter. V had changed Lyttleton's "it is even possible" to "must", but V balked at owning up to this faux pas while demanding to be shown the texts, which Michael had with him. [Note: somebody has dug up a 1941 paper where Lyttleton uses "must."] Similarly, at Brown Univ. in 1965 (where V hoped to confront Neugebauer), Abraham Sachs took Neugebauer's place when N refused to be on the program, "ambushing" V on a host of points. After Sachs spoke, V said he had a reply to each of Sachs' points as he would reveal the next day at the Q&A session at Diman House. Well, Sachs did not appear and V volunteered nothing. When he got back to Princeton, he prepared finished typed rebuttals to all the other speakers at Brwown, except Sachs, for whom only partial pencilled comments exist.

However, since the 1960s when LYttleton and McCrea toyed with fissioning of gas giants to form inner planets (this would have to have been early in solar system history, for once a core forms, it would not participate in any fissioning), this process has been shown to be ineffective, or inoperable in practice. But V's supporters still trot out Lyttleton fissioning even in 1997.

Leroy Ellenberger (who knows more than anyone wants to know about Velikovsky)

P.S.: Yes, interest in V is not what it used to be. In 1986 25 people sent for the additional info I offered in my SI letter. In 1995 I offered four obscure papers in my refs to readers for a 32 cent stamp each. Only one reader responded. My letter in S/O SI now has the URL for my Velidelu article, but no one so far has e-mailed me from the link in the web version. But people do continue to get attracted to V's ideas by various means, as I've noted before. Just yesterday I got a slick, full color catalog from Truth Seekers in San Diego offering books and video tapes for all sorts of b.s., including the Kronia tape "Remembering theEnd of the World" along with the tapes from the SSE's conference last Sept "Return to the Source"--many of whose speakers were nuts, such as Hancock, WEst and Flem-Ath, but others on the program had real information to convey, such as Frank Edge (see Sept. Griffith Observer) who has deduced that the Great Bull in the cave at Lascaux (15,000 BC) represents Taurus. Dots in the bull's head represent the Hyades and dots over its shoulder represent the Pleiades AND at that epoch the full moon at the summer solstice rested in the bull's horns. Cool. CLE

Mr. Ellenberger is not quite finished:

Dear Prof. Carroll,

Thank you for your reply. I still think, however, your Worlds in Collision critique should be amended, if not corrected/re-written to acknowledge that Velikovsky did not, contrary to Sagan's analysis, take Biblical stories literally. I shall send you a copy of Velikovsky's rebuttal to Sagan on this point as I indicated yesterday.

On the one hand I have heard your comments about student awareness before and on the other hand I see what the neo-Velikovskians are doing on the 'net and elsewhere to obtain followers, as my recent memorandum to 30 or so skeptics, etc., describes (which I'll also send to you); see the kronia site: and judge for yourself. AND, I know recent college graduates who "discover" Velikovsky by one way or another and are persuaded by the propaganda, even now. This suggests to me that your sampling of students is not a valid indicator of the potential interest in Velikovsky and related issues that is "out there"--where the truth should also be. I'll also send you a revised and enlarged verion of my Su 1986 Skep. Inq. letter "A lesson from Velikovsky."

Further to my concerns yesterday, I do not recall seeing Skeptical Dictionary deal with Wilhelm Reich and orgonomy, which is still going strong and is also a lacunae in CSICOP's recent Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, Gordon Stein, ed. (and which volume I do not recall seeing offered in your electronic bookstore. If I misspeak myself here, I apologize. I really am not trying to be a "pill", just concerned about covering all the relevant bases.

Oh, yes, I'm sure the point is not lost on you that for someone like Sagan to promote good science and critical thinking and then use erroneous physics and fallacious logic to debunk Velikovsky is not "good form"--and I think groups like CSICOP should be concerned with such lapses in procedure, even when their fair-haired boy is a culprit. When you see my correspondence last year with Sagan you will see what I mean.


Leroy Ellenberger

reply: Sagan ignored the charges that he intentionally used "erroneous physics" and "fallacious logic" to debunk Velikovsky. Sagan and the Veikovskians were never two scientific schools battling it out for domination. At best, their confrontation could be called "philosophical." It had nothing to do with the nature of science. I have seen your correspondence with Sagan (for which I thank you) but I do not read from it any more than that he didn't have a clue as to what you were talking about when you demanded him to "self-correct."


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