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KRONOS Vol II, No. 2 Winter 1976

Velikovsky Versus Academic Lag
(The Problem of Hypothesis)

First published in PSA 1974; Reprinted with permission.
R. S. Cohen et al.(eds),PSA 1974,487498.  All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 1976 by D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland.


Professor E. A. Burtt(l) suggested that we might add "tertiary" qualities to our primary and secondary qualities when we undertake an analysis of reality.  These tertiary qualities are the ones embodied in the human institutions of the world.  He suggests that we may be arranging nature with our methodologies due to main conditions in us rather than due to main conditions in nature.  Nothing can provide the satisfactory generalized concept of the world that does not entail extensive historical analysis of the major factors that have condi­tioned us, according to Burtt.  The new cosmology would hardly be worth the effort, if it were merely the synthesis of scientific data or the logical criticism of the basic assumptions of that data, for Burtt.  Sound insight must supplement scientific data and its assump­tions, through the reasoned expression of the intellectual insight of all the ages.  He goes on to point out that we see readily the role that wishful thinking has played in older methodologies, but we do not understand the role that wishful thinking plays in our own methodologies.  The mechano-morphic period was absorbed in the mathematical nature of physical motion: they ignored the ultimate suppositions that they used in order to frame their laws and their hypotheses.  Clarification is necessary and cannot proceed without the historical studies that can expose the fundamental motives and human factors in each of the characteristic analyses that have been adopted.  In choosing between hypotheses of two kinds, the tertiary qualities are at work in us.  The rise and fall of scholarly interests is conditioned by factors as yet totally unexplored.  Burtt goes on to state that though science may reject final cause, it does harbor in its fundamental categories functioning values or tertiary qualities that remain completely unseen.  A comparative study of the different stages of the growth of scientific thinking would throw light on the nature of our models of the universe and the tertiary qualities of the structure of contemporary scientific procedure.

As Bridgman points out: In "pure physics" the problem of the "observer" must eventually deal with the observer as thinking about what he observes.

Historically, and also in our time, the logical foundation of the natural sciences has been founded and grounded for the sake of usefulness and wealth for man.  Problems of controlling natural bodies have been studied primarily for the purpose of gaining technology that would yield fruitful patents and political power.  Analy­sis of the course that mechanics carved out demonstrates this graphically.  The story of mechanics is a record of rapid appropriation of experimental results into technology and the scrapping of leftover implications if they held no immediate payoff for industrial giantism or national political edge.

We can observe that serious and critical scientific insights have been systematically shelved and laid to rest for 50-100-200 years, until the technology that proceeded without comprehensive theory became blocked, unwieldy, and chaotic due to lack of understanding of the primary processes that were involved.

Then and only then, in desperation for further progress in profit, a neglected generalization or analytical clue would be retrieved from the junk heap to serve the technology.  In this way, science has limped along with ad hoc hypotheses and the narrow ranges of validity that these hypotheses yield.  This is in service to ongoing industrial wealth and national power.  The myth of purity in the sciences has arisen in the scientific community as a compensational device.  As disinterested pursuit of truth lost its virtue early in the game, the purity that had been rejected from scientific goals was claimed to be housed in scientific ways and means.  It is clearly understood, as one analyzes the record, that from 1650 to 1850, science tinkered technologically and mathematically with the pri­mary processes of physical theory, which were already well known, but these primary processes were unwanted because they involved true or scientific hypothesis rather than ad hoc hypothesis.  In scientific hypothesis, a scientist remains disinterested insofar as he stands willing to go wherever the data might lead.  During these years, science was mechano-morphic, and these models suppressed all unwanted data.  As Bruno taught, "we only look for the fruit of the trees that we ourselves plant." Or as Planck observed, we tend to suppress the common nature of all phenomena.

Expectancy, then, determined their hypotheses, and their hypoth­eses determined their results.  Results that were outside of their expectancy and were due to nature were ignored.  No mathematics was developed for them during this time.

Bruno noticed that "Each man takes enough fruit to fit his own bowl." In this way, the comprehensive development of natural science has experienced heartbreaking "academic lag".

Philosophers follow rich men, according to Bacon, and the Socratic maxim "know thyself" has been scrapped.  The acqui­escence of critical philosophy and the flight of philosophers into Romanticism in the 19th century speaks for itself.  As Bacon would say: "We have not had a whole man working."  Today, things have changed.  We have a philosophy of science that holds the promise of becoming a critical philosophy.  The danger is present, though, that our philosophy of science will tend to become a mere handmaiden to mechano-morphic science.  We have played the handmaiden role before.  We must never play it again.  There is a middle way; but it does not call for the intimidation of the philosophical search.  The middle way for philosophy of science calls for firm and rigorous watchdogging.  We are the watchdogs of intellectual integrity and intellectual freedoms.

In 1888, the American Academy of Science reminded us that Young had been evaluated by his colleagues like this: "the ab­surdity of this writer's 'law of interference' as it pleases him to call one of the most incomprehensible suppositions that we remember to have met with .... This paper contains nothing which deserves the name of experiment or discovery; and it is, in fact, destitute of every species of merit."(2)

The scientific lords also wrote on Ohm's book: "He who looks on the world with the eye of reverence must turn aside from this book as the result of an incurable delusion, whose sole effort is to detract from the dignity of nature."  And again on Ohm: "a physicist who professed such heresies was unworthy to teach science." Ohm was penniless for six years because he was "unworthy to teach".  And again at the trial of Deforest: "Deforest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years.  Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public, Your Honor, has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company."

And Crookes wrote: "We have actually touched the borderland where matter and force seem to merge into one another.  I venture to think that the greatest scientific problems of the future will find their solution in this border land".  The orthodoxy immediately said of his work, "How beautiful and how useless", and did everything they could to keep young men from being exposed to him, because he was dangerous.

                        Let us not forget that the principle of conservation of energy had to be explicated by five men, none of whom was a physicist.  Helmholtz, a physiologist working in sound; Camot, an engineer; Joule, an industrialist and brewer; Colding, an engineer; and last but hardly least, Mayer, a physician who calculated the mechanical equivalent of heat and who was labeled by scientists a freak or a madman and driven to a suicide attempt by the isolation and ridicule of the keepers of orthodoxy.

We have here a record that is a disgrace.  Cultural lag is one thing, but academic lag is inexcusable.  The man in the street makes no advertisement or commitment to full and open inquiry.  The scientist does.  So do the philosophers.

It is the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of the "partial view" mistaken for the "whole".  This is a special problem in physics and astronomy today.  The idea that all of the special sciences are reducible to physics is ridiculous.  Especially when we see that what passes for physics is natural philosophy developed in special areas of interest for various phenomena.  The phenomena (man included) do not belong to physics.  The phenomena constitute the great book of nature, and, as deSebonde insisted over 500 years ago, "The great book of nature can be intelligible to every man."

We see that technology uses the accumulated everyday experience of the human race along with scientific theories.  The interplay here is crucial.  We also see that mechanics was developed only after insemination of physics by chemistry, electrical engineering, optical and auditory experiments, and medicine.  There is no disciplinary purity to be seen in the grasping of successful scientific understand­ing of natural phenomena.  On the contrary, until the relationships between laws of light, sound, chemistry, electricity, heat, and me­chanical energy were understood, researchers explained mechanical energy in terms of the power of the horse.  After insemination of mechanics by the heterogeneous phenomena, mechanics was ex­plained in mathematical terms.

The wedding of astronomy to mechanics was a camouflage necessary at that time of Newton.  Much of the pictorial modeling in science has been empirical camouflage.  As Bacon taught, if one would transplant knowledge from one century to the other, he must quietly and in an unnoticed way graft onto the knowledge--plant at its root--so that the change would seem to occur naturally.  For the change would start out as a tiny helpless green shoot, and the keep­ers of knowledge-plants would get used to it gradually and even believe that they brought it about, somehow.

It has taken 250 years for us to get used to the idea that terrestrial phenomena can be explained without the models of practical me­chanics.  The same job remains to be done now for astronomy.

The accumulated record of man in his physical environment includes his experience with stars, moon, planets, and the sun, but early in the game these physical bodies were tied to a rich-emotional milieu.  The time has arrived to sever the intellectual analysis of these physical bodies from old cultural hysterias.  To hold that ancient reports of human experience (set aside in holy books) are the sole basis of scientific knowledge is, of course, ridiculous.  But to hold, because some records of ancient human experience have been pre­viously set aside as holy books, that they cannot now be used to demonstrate the source of careless metaphysical assumptions by the human race--is equally ridiculous.  The law of uniformity is one such metaphysical assumption.

Analysis can demonstrate that human life devised this principle as a means of coping with unpredictable global physical catastrophe.  The basic laws of both analytical psychology and behavioristic psychology demonstrate the avoidance phenomenon that humans develop in order to cope with massive anxiety.  The hypothesis of racial amnesia is stated by Dr. Velikovsky:

The memory of the cataclysms was erased, not because of lack of written traditions, but because of some character­istic process that later caused entire nations, together with their literate men, to read into these traditions allegories or metaphor where actually cosmic disturbances were clearly described.

This hypothesis is actually a scientific or site(3) hypothesis, as opposed to technological hypotheses, such as a working hypothesis or an ad hoc hypothesis.  The site hypothesis is a statement of admittedly unproven assumptions that are adopted as a basis for inference.

Ancient written experience is used in all the natural sciences.  It is sorted out and sifted through analytically.  Only relevant parts of the material are used for the scientific perspective.  It is not a case of all or nothing at all.

We have always ignored much of Newton.  He spent over fifteen years writing material not relevant to scientific perspective.  We must ignore a lot of Kepler, Bruno, Descartes, Cusanus, Occam, and Archimedes, etc., because not every idea they left behind is relevant to the scientific perspective.  And yet, as we sift through their works carefully, we find the clues relevant to our scientific perspective.  It is the same for all of the ancient records that report human ex­perience.  Scientists decide to accept Chinese records of the sudden appearance of the Crab Nebula, because it fits their expectations.  They reject some of the historical evidence cited by Velikovsky, because it does not fit their expectations.

But to arbitrarily take the position that some books are automat­ically off limits to analysis, because of the way past cultures have used them, is a case of political expediency for the scientific orthodoxy.  As philosophers of science, should we support academic lag on that basis?

Let us look at Dr. Velikovsky's hypotheses in terms of their predictive successes.  The record is overwhelmingly a success.  Yet the astronomer, like the 19th century "physicist", prefers to wait, and after the actual fact to look around for an ad hoc hypothesis to cover it.  This will not do.  The immature need to retain the pictorial image - e.g., the "greenhouse effect" - must be given up.  Physics had to give up its "pictures", and astronomy must also yield.

Actually, the battle is over.  Dr. Velikovsky has emerged the victor because his scientific hypothesis that there have been physical planetary catastrophes in historical times has been proven to have enormous predictive power.  For example, a few from very, very many may be listed: Radio noise from Jupiter, strong charge on Jupiter ( 1953); [Earth's extensive magnetosphere ( 1956); An exten­sive magnetic field in the solar system extending to Pluto (1946); The Sun is charged (1950); Venus is very hot, has a heavy atmosphere, and was disturbed in its rotation and may have an anomalous rotation (1950); Mars' atmosphere contains quantities of argon and neon (1945); Mars is moon-like, battered, and geologically active (1950); There have been many reversals of Earth's magnetic poles (1950); Some of Earth's petroleum was deposited only a few thousand years ago (1950).

And successful deduction about the Moon: Hydrocarbons, car­bides, and carbonates will be found (July 2 and July 21, 1969); Strong remanent magnetism in rocks (May 19, 1969); Pockets of radioactivity (March 14, 1967); Excessive argon and neon in the rego­lith (leading to incorrect age estimates) (July 23, 1969); Steep thermal gradient under the surface (July 2, 1969). ][1]

A scientific or site hypothesis is a statement of admittedly un­proven assumptions that are adopted theoretically as a basis for inference of a predictive nature.  In this site hypothesis, inference is pointed in a certain direction but is not limited in that direction.  The parameters of this fundamental or site hypothesis may be very broad or very narrow in scope.  If this site hypothesis is very narrow, the range of this hypothesis is broadened by re-adjustment of the site itself through deductive inference from working hypotheses in combination.  This is a logical fanning out from an analytic position gained through reflection upon a combination of working hypoth­eses.

A working or techno-hypothesis is a statement that attempts to explain a particular physical process that takes place during a par­ticular physical experiment, and so it involves making provisional assumptions with vested interest in the experiment.  Another type of techno-hypothesis is the ad hoc hypothesis that provides a reasonable description of the physical experiment, and so it suggests that there is a physical explanation for that particular experiment, and the job that the experiment does.

The site hypothesis provides the fundamental parameters of a scientific theory that usually has been demonstrated with various models.  These models are actually constituted of three levels of hypotheses, ad hoc, working and site or scientific.  With the site hypothesis in view, reflexion fans out the collapsed position of deep analysis that is an attained working hypothesis.  When the reflexive flow that is directed toward the site hypothesis indicates any chance of a "fit" into the site model, analysis takes over and picks up the scent, to pursue the possibilities.  The coupling is accomplished through analytical deductive inference.  This entails the collapsing of the reflexive flow into the mould of the analytical deductive inference.  A simpler working hypothesis is now achieved.

From this newly achieved position, and still in view of the site hypothesis, reflexion fans out the new material.  This dialectical process of reflexive fanning out and analytical collapsing of the material under study can proceed without limit.  However, the site hypothesis demands parameters.  It is crucial that the site hypothesis be constantly dilated to accommodate all the families of ad hoc hypotheses that are supporting the numerous working hypotheses that eventually combine to form ground for remodeling the site hypothesis.

Since a working or techno-hypothesis attempts to explain a particular physical process that takes place during physical experi­ment, it involves making provisional assumptions of a general and peculiar nature.  These working hypotheses are written in the highly technical language of mathematics.  Using the precision of the mathematical language and the mathematical inference, the working hypothesis establishes an objective frame of reference within which site or scientific hypothesis can be expressed in terms of the ad hoc hypothesis that first generated it.

The working hypothesis sits between the site or scientific hypoth­esis on the theoretical side and the ad hoc hypothesis on common sense side.  The working hypothesis integrates these two logical thresholds by demonstrating in mathematical terms and operations what kinds of inferences are being used in order to thread the ad hoc experiment into the theoretical logic of the site or scientific hypothesis being used.

The working hypothesis is the co-incident of the ad hoc hypoth­esis and the site hypothesis (a global methodological perspective).  It represents the conceptual lift-off from the ad hoc operation, in co­incidence with the basic assumptions of the site hypothesis or global methodological perspective that is involved.  This formulation involves an analytical collapse or deductive inference that provides a theorem to the basic axioms or assumptions of the site hypothesis or global methodological perspective.  The richer and more structural this mathematical formulation is, the more families of ad hoc hypotheses it will include.  There will be entire families of ad hoc hypothesis covered by a deeply reflexive working hypothesis.  If the site hypothesis has been well chosen, it will be able to support myriads of these working hypotheses and their innumerable families of supportive ad hoc hypotheses.

We see here a regular pattern of intermittent fanning out reflexive­ly and collapsing analytically as the three levels of hypothesis are accomplished.  These complementary logical operations move the reasoning forward from the ad hoc to the site level as surely as the caterpillar is able to move forward by this style.  And in human gait, the same phenomenon can be understood.  Ambulation is achieved by the dialectic of expansion and contraction operations.  Human logic focused on conceptual problems operates by the same physical law.

In the techno- or working hypothesis, the statement is understood ahead of time to be inadequate to explain or control the facts that have appeared.  However, because a limited part of the new facts can be handled through such an hypothesis that it can control an inter­esting fragment of the new facts, this type of hypothesis can be used.  It is a function of special interest in a very fragmentary portion of a phenomenon.  The chain of higher level reasoning that follows the adoption of this techno-hypothesis eventually will support deductions that will help form the statement of a scientific or site hypothesis.  Or this techno-hypothesis can lead to simple formulations that can logically fan out, and at that level this fanning can suggest a deduction that fits into the site hypothesis.

The second kind of techno-hypothesis is the ad hoc hypothesis.  This type I shall call the inductive hypothesis, because it does not catalyze deductive fall out.  Its range of validity is not only narrow, but this range is unlike the narrow range that might be involved in either the working hypothesis or the site hypothesis.  This narrow range of validity is tied to the common sense by a direct relationship.  The success of this ad hoc hypothesis is tied to simple observation.  The one redeeming feature of the ad hoc hypothesis is that the human agent present in the demonstration of this hypothesis can (IF HIS LOGICAL OBSERVATION RUNS AHEAD OF WHAT THE AD HOC HYPOTHESIS DEMONSTRATES) extend the results of the ad hoc hypothesis.  These inductive extensions usually involve analogy and memory in a very active and trained mind totally immersed in the relevant problem.  The ad hoc hypothesis is the one that the technicians who live by government subsidy will prefer.  Here, they take a very small calculated risk, and results are pretty well guaranteed.  It is slow, and it is safe.  However, it has nothing to do with the disinterested pursuit of truth and is instead the father of technology and applied science.

It is the scientific or site hypothesis that the truly disinterested curiosity yearns to produce.  The record demonstrates that the ability to abandon the senses at the correct stage in reflexion is the only way in which the objects under analysis can appear under the discipline of the reflexive reason.  Here, the objects under analysis are no longer pictorial images.  Instead, they are structural relation­ships that the reflexive reason can readily arrange in structures that the intellect suggests.

Perhaps the most crucial characteristic involved in these three levels of hypothesis is flexibility and contingency.  Whereas, the procedures within each hypothetical step may be certain and necessary, the steps of hypotheses themselves must be capable of expansion as the staircase of theory matures.

Speculative and descriptive method are integrated to produce what is commonly called the empirical method.  To proceed merely by speculative method is also impossible.  The rub comes in when it cannot be decided what can be included as descriptive data.  For Dr. Velikovsky and a host of other scientists, ancient written records can be submitted to critical scrutiny in order that distinct descriptions of cosmic disturbances experienced and recorded by the human race can be recognized and used.  Tertiary qualities generated by sociali­zation patterns must be set aside by the scientist who scrutinizes ancient written records.

Analysis is merely the function of reason.  Reason faces both the senses and the intellect.  The descriptive method uses the sensual side of reason and its function, analysis.  The reflexive method is based in the reason but faces the intellect or structural reasoning (mathematics).

The reflexive method entails the stripping of descriptive pictorial images into structural relationships.  This is accomplished by log­ically restructuring them with the active suggestions of the intellect, which stands over the objects under reflexion much like a lamp.  In this way, the reflexive capacity can yield strictures from deductive relationships (working hypotheses).  These reflexive structures (mod­els) themselves can be taken under the reflexive study, and the denuding of these structures can yield sophisticated remodeling.

Sophisticated remodeling of the scientific or site hypothesis may also be the result of direct, severe reflexion on and analysis of, raw descriptive data.  In this case, the remodeling appears as idio-

syncratic or novel.  These re-modelings must never be rejected automatically because they call for a re-organization of working and ad hoc hypotheses and a re-modeled site hypothesis.  Scientific or site hypothesis, then, is the tuber or the pod for reflexive deductions.  It can be historically demonstrated that sociological conditioning has greatly impaired this insight.  Undue fantasy has caused the faculty to come into disgrace.  Undue social control has caused the faculty to hold tight to the ad hoc hypothesis.  However, the site hypothesis is the result of a critical and courageous, well-trained mind controlled by a mature personality.  Because we have the constant emergence of mature personalities despite the sociological threats, true hypothesis will not ever be completely suppressed.  Because every man can form crude hypothesis from practical experience, men of scientific reflexion are often intimidated by the resemblance.  All one can say to this is that philosophers from Plato to Broad have understood this problem.  It is treated by the demand for reflexive, critically sufficient reasons.  One man will have them and another man will not.

Dr. Velikovsky has the proper scientific or site hypotheses rather than the techno-hypotheses of the science that is merely a public utility.  When the site or scientific hypothesis remains in the shadow of petrified tertiary material fed to it through working and ad hoc hypotheses that are themselves limited to the tertiary qualities ­those tertiary qualities had better be severely reflexive and analytical.


1.   E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science.

2.   The quoted reactions of the scientific community to new ideas in the past have been taken from Lloyd Taylor's book, Physics: the Pioneer Science.  This book was chosen because it is 33 years old and is an introductory physics text.  Yet, its recorded lessons have seemingly escaped the attention of the academic towers.

3.   The term "site" is used here in an attempt slowly to drop the term "scientific".  The term "scientific" has been found to be misleading and ambiguous, with no clear meaning.  The concept "hypothesis" is more logically broken down into three types, site, working, and ad hoc.


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Campbell, Norman Robert: 1957, Foundations of Science, Dover, New York.

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[1].  This section revised by author 11/77.

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