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Open letter to science editors
In October 1969, Isaac Asimov published a brief essay titled
"Worlds in Confusion". It appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction
and was reprinted in The Stars in their Courses (1972).
"Worlds in Confusion" was Asimov's belated contribution to the "critical"
literature on Worlds in Collision.
A sampling from "Worlds in Confusion" should suffice to show
the reader the true merit of Asimov's criticism.
ASIMOV.- "Let's not think of . . . gigantic catastrophes. Let's not
think of altered orbits, of oceans leaving their beds and slopping over the
continents. Let's not think of the great results of Earth's suddenly
[sic] stopping its rotation when Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still."
Instead, consider what would have happened to Joshua and his troops. "Not
only would Joshua's soldiers all have fallen down and rolled for a thousand
miles, but the energy of rotation would have been converted into heat and
have melted the Earth's crust."
WRONG: Repudiated in toto by Sagan himself at the AAAS Symposium and
again in Scientists Confront Velikovsky (p. 64); Cf. The
Velikovsky Affair, p. 231, no. 20; C. J. Ransom, The Age of
Velikovsky (pp. 9-10).
ASIMOV.- "There are many limestone caves in the world [with] many
stalactites and stalagmites ... They are quite brittle. If the Earth had
stopped its rotation at the time of the Exodus, or if it had even slightly
changed its period of rotation, every one of those stalactites and
stalagmites would have been broken."
WRONG.- This argument, borrowed from Martin Gardner's Fads &
Fallacies in the Name of Science (p. 29), sounds convincing but
is quite erroneous.—See Pensee I (May, 1972), p. 15; Pensee
II (Fall, 1972), p. 18; Pensee III (Winter, 1973), pp. 48-50; Also
repudiated by Sagan, Ibid.
ASIMOV.- "Can it be that Velikovsky doesn't know the difference
between 'hydrocarbon' and 'carbohydrate'? ... Can a cloud of gasoline vapor
precipitate as a sugar-like compound? This, I'm afraid, is chemically
WRONG. While "carbohydrates cannot be precipitated from hydrocarbons
...there was a possibility for the Venusian hydrocarbons to produce
carbohydrates by reacting with the Earth's upper atmosphere" (Wong Kee
Kuong, "The Synthesis of Manna," Pensee III, pp. 45-46, where six
different processes are outlined for the conversion of hydrocarbons into
carbohydrates); Cf. Wong Kee Kuong, "A Cosmoanalytic Interpretation of
Venusian Fragrances" (unpublished manuscript); M. G. Reade, "Manna as a
Confection," SIS Review 1:2 (Sp ring, 19 76), pp. 9 ff.
ASIMOV.- "Can cometary tails really blaze up if they pass through
Earth's atmosphere? Can they really cause rains of fire? No, sir, not a
chance. Those comet tails are just about the thinnest gas you can imagine."
COMMENT.- With regard to Venus, Asimov is playing a semantic game
with the word "comet". The question is not whether any currently observed
comet could cause such fires, but whether the atmosphere of Venus as a
proto-planet could have done so. At the least, Asimov's analogy is
inappropriate [Cf. C. J. Ransom and L. H. Hoffee, "The Orbits of Venus,"
Pensee 111, pp. 22-24; Pensee 111, p. 44; M. K. Wallis,
"Comet-Like Interactions of Venus with the Solar Wind," Cosmic
Electrodynamics (April, 1972)]. Also, there is the distinct
possibility that Asimov's generalization about comets is WRONG.
Certain evidence suggests that various fires, occurring in the United
States during the month of October in 1871, may have been due to a comet
[See 1. Donnelly, Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883, 197l ed.),
pp.413, 423; F. B. Jueneman, "Tales of a Comet," Industrial Research
(Oct., 1973), p. 14] .
ASIMOV.- After quoting the following passage from Worlds in
Collision "According to all existing theories, the angular velocity of
the revolution of a satellite must be slower than the velocity of rotation
of its parent. But the inner satellite of Mars revolves more rapidly than
Mars rotates."—Asimov goes on to say that "there is absolutely nothing in
any astronomic theory I have ever heard of that relates the angular velocity
of a satellite to the period of rotation of the planet it circles."
COMMENT.- Within the context of Worlds in Collision, Asimov is
once again WRONG. In a section of Worlds in Collision titled
"The Origin of the Planetary System, Velikovsky was explicitly referring to
"existing cosmological theories", particularly the nebular and tidal
theories (Cf. W in C, pp. 10-12).
Concerning Asimov's remarks on hydrocarbons and Venus'
atmosphere, see pages 42 and 1 13 in the articles by Velikovsky and Juergens
elsewhere in this issue.
A final point of interest: Despite its obvious scientific
errors, despite the repudiations by Sagan, "Worlds in Confusion" heads the
bibliographical list found at the end of Scientists Confront Velikovsky(p.
179). How reliable, then, is the remainder of the anti-Velikovsky
literature on that list, especially the material by L. Sprague de Camp (Cf.
KRONOS III: 1, August, 1977, "L. Sprague de Camp: Anatomy of a Zetetic")
and Martin Gardner (CL Pensee 11, pp. 42-43)?