Site Section Links
KRONOS Vol V, No. 1DOCUMENTS . . .
HERETICS, DOGMATISTS AND SCIENCE'S RECEPTION OF NEW IDEAS (Part 2)
C. Leroy Ellenberger
Copyright (C) 1980 C. L. Ellenberger
Science today, as religion in the past, has become dogmatic – in the East as in the West A scientist must swear loyalty to the established dogmas. The first rule of the scientific attitude is to study, then to think, and then to express an opinion. A reverse of this is not a scientific approach, and this is exactly what has been done by a group of scientists who have expressed opinions about my work.
It seems most ironic that the scientific method that Descartes, Bacon, and friends presented to release humanity from the tyranny of organized religion now threatens to become further dogma.
Whereas science is positive, contenting itself with reporting what it discovers, scientism is negative. It goes beyond the actual findings of science to deny that other approaches to knowledge are valid and other truths true. In doing so it deserts science in favor of metaphysics – bad metaphysics, as it happens, for as the contention that there are no truths save those of science is not itself a scientific truth, in affirming it, scientism contradicts itself. It also carries marks of a religion – a secular religion, resulting from over extrapolation from science, that has seldom numbered great scientists among its votaries.
Western thinkers accepted Newton's theories with such gusto that they committed. . . the intellectual error of believing that they had finally captured ultimate reality. Whitehead labelled this belief the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness," and he contended that it was responsible for the periodic roadblocks that science had experienced in the course of its development. Misplaced concreteness, to be more specific, entails the elimination of a great deal of phenomena from consideration in the formulation of theory and the consequent belief that because the theory as constituted seems to work, the neglected data [are] not critical to the understanding and may thereafter be excluded.
The professional, disciplinary approach to scientific discoveries has today become just as much a barrier to innovation as was the Church of yesterday; whereas religious dogma once impeded direct contemplation of phenomena, the reification of science now allows for the perpetuation of doctrines, e.g., the faith in uniformity, as criteria by which responses are made to "untenable" prognoses. Just as heretics were read out of the Church so, too, the true believers in Science dismiss the Velikovskian theories.
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.
Velikovsky . . . assumed that mankind's myths, symbols and other purported forms of mimesis of an original might not be sheer creations of man's imagination reworked and finally recorded by the generations, but experiences overlaid first by authentic images of their originals, then by images of images. He assumed that by stripping away the overlay, the primary image could be brought to light, and a strong curiosity led him to do this regarding the Hebrew scriptural image of the sun and moon standing still. For Shapley this was no astronomical original, but utter human fantasy, and anyone who took it for such an original must be either a fool or a knave. Velikovsky, no fool, no knave, but a man of notable scholarly parts, felt he had reliable reasons for so taking it. He inferred that an Old Testament miracle could have been an actual historic event which Adam's posterity remembered, suppressed, yet diversely recorded, and he set out to dig up the records.... His imaging is an orchestration from all the available records: it composes them into an evolution compounding itself of catastrophes. The resulting portrayal is a signal achievement of imagination and intelligence working in close harmony to restore authenticity to an early image of an actual happening A physician skilled in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, Velikovsky postulated that the actual happening must have been too disastrous for homo sapiens to remember as such. The memory image gets remodelled; it is given human features and the remembered event gets converted from a bringer of defeat and destruction to a bringer of victory and survival. By imaging happenings as acts of the tribal god, the Bible story infuses them with human meanings and values. The imaging is a transaction which remolds a cataclysmal experience into a satisfying human myth.
* * *
UPDATE – THE VELIKOVSKY AFFAIR
Succeeding the 1974 AAAS symposium, the latest phase in the "Velikovsky Affair" centers upon the adulation reviewers lavished on Scientists Confront Velikovsky (SCV) – and subsequently on a modified version of Sagan's paper presented in Broca's Brain(63) – while practically ignoring the rebuttal volume from KRONOS, Velikovsky and Establishment Science (V&ES). Nine major reviews of SCV have appeared in U. S. and British magazines while two have appeared for V&ES. The early reviewers of SCV tended to praise Carl Sagan's "devastating" analysis while later ones have opted for David Morrison or Peter Huber. What has become the obligatory one paragraph synopsis of Worlds In Collision usually distorts the events in Velikovsky's scenario. Of twelve noted reviews of Broca's Brain, four emphasized the Velikovsky chapter: Martin Gardner in The New York Review,(64) Robert Jastrow in The New York Times Book Review,(65) Time,(66) and National Review.(67)
In November 1977, The Humanist(68) provided an introduction to this latest phase by reprinting Velikovsky's AAAS address followed by an excerpt of about 55 percent of the main body of Sagan's paper. The latter came as a surprise because the editor, Paul Kurtz, had led Velikovsky to believe that only a few "passages" from Sagan would appear. The presentation was made to appear as a debate, with that pair followed by Velikovsky's summary of the symposium (which was written explicitly for The Humanist as a "Preface" to his address but changed, without notice or permission, by Kurtz into "Afterword – 1977"). This, in turn, was followed by remarks from Donald Goldsmith. This last piece was a rejoinder to both Velikovsky's remarks about the organization of the symposium and Velikovsky's selected criticisms of Sagan's arguments.
In the next issue invited letters from Mulholland, Huber, Storer and King were printed because Velikovsky had criticized them in his "Preface" which as previously noted, The Humanist had improperly and without authorization relocated and retitled as "Afterword – 1977". Also printed were a rebuttal to Goldsmith by Lynn Rose and concluding remarks – "For the record" – by the Editors.(69) Rose subsequently commented upon Huber's letter in KRONOS.(70) The Humanist never printed any readers' letters correcting any of Sagan's errors but an "Open Letter to Velikovsky" from a Colorado high school teacher whose tone demanded answers to four questions was later printed.(71) Still later, three more readers' letters appeared commenting on the Velikovsky/Sagan "debate".(72)
The latter part of 1977 was not totally negative, however. Dwardu Cardona had a comprehensive survey article on Worlds in Collision in U.F.O. Report(73) while Hyam Maccoby's "Velikovsky and Jewish History" appeared in Midstream.(74) The Maccoby article prompted a vociferous letter of objection from an astronomer, the director of a small New England college observatory, to which Maccoby made a competent, though traditional, reply. After seeing the letters in Princeton, this writer sent a letter to the astronomer which Midstream, after receiving a copy, requested permission to publish as well. Unfortunately, none of the letters were ever printed.
Because of the role Harvard faculty members and the Harvard Crimson played in 1950,(75) perhaps it is fitting that the Crimson's is one of the first, if not the first, reviews of SCV that appeared.(76) Its 1,250 words hardly reflect the fact that the Crimson was provided with extensive background material by one of Velikovsky's stauncher supporters, Edward Langenbach, who is a Cambridge attorney and Harvard Law alumnus. Langenbach lobbied the Crimson to write a fair article on Velikovsky before SCV came out, even to the extent of replacing the background material twice when it was lost or misplaced during changes in editors. He had hoped that a writer armed with Pensée IVR VII, the correspondence between Velikovsky and Cornell University Press and other pro-Velikovsky material would not be totally overtaken by Sagan's seduction.(77) But such was not to be.
The article turned out to be a review of SCV. After straight-forwardly recounting the publication history of Worlds in Collision in 1950, the review zeroes in on Sagan's analysis. It concludes: "The validity of Sagan's argument is not immediately self-evident, but the post-symposium rebuttal [i.e., Pensée IVR VII] offered by Velikovskyites to Sagan does not seem sufficient to resurrect Worlds in Collision." The only argument cited agrees with Sagan that a body ejected from Jupiter would be atomized and therefore "not describe the planet Venus particularly well".(78)
For balance, the review criticizes Asimov's contention that exoheretics are never right and Storer's argument about McCarthyism explaining Velikovsky's rough reception. An interesting revelation is that at that time Payne-Gaposchkin,(79) whom the Crimson interviewed, was still labeling Velikovsky's books as nonsense while admitting she had not read any of them. This presents a contradiction because, during the furor in 1950 after she refuted Worlds in Collision without reading it,(80) she then claimed to have read it.(81)
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Robert C. Cowen, now Science Editor of the Christian Science Monitor, reviewed Worlds in Collision in 1950 for that paper.(82) His review of SCV "Shooting holes in scientist's planet theories",(83) appeared in his science column and was later syndicated.(84) Cowen does not dwell on the contents of SCV so much as recounting Velikovsky's scenario with accompanying criticisms. Judging from the title, Cowen at least considered Velikovsky a scientist. While concluding that "Velikovsky has not made his case for colliding worlds," the review ends on an encouraging note: "But the main issue remains open – what scientifically can be learned from ancient legends?" Indeed.
Anthony R. Aveni's "A Marshaling of Arguments" appeared in the 20 January 1978 Science.(85) Aveni is an archaeoastronomer at Colgate University who has worked extensively in Central America. He writes:
Aveni is also impressed with Huber's arguments.
In his 1400 words, comprising almost four columns, Aveni recounts the primary points in each of the papers after making no less than five mistakes in a precis of Worlds in Collision. One of his more dogmatic statements is: "The truth about the workings of the natural world are [sic] demonstrably best arrived at by the reasoned approach of science we have so painstakingly cultivated. The scientific edifice, interlocking, interdependent, and self-cleansing, produces beautiful results."(86) To Aveni's notion that science deserves a special position because of its results, Paul Feyerabend would reply "This is an argument only if it can be shown (a) that no other view has ever produced anything comparable and (b) that the results of science are autonomous, they do not owe anything to non-scientific agencies. Neither assumption survives close scrutiny.... Briefly, but not incorrectly: today science prevails not because of its comparative merits, but because the show has been rigged in its favour."(87) After discussing how non-Western societies and their traditions were suppressed during colonization, Feyerabend asserts: "Again the superiority of science is the result not of research, or argument, it is the result of political, institutional, and even military pressures."(88)
Aveni's sentiments about the virtues of the "scientific edifice" ignore the inefficiencies in its construction. R. A. Lyttleton has recently commented most appropriately on this aspect of science:
In its 23 June issue, Science devoted 30 percent of the space allotted Aveni's review to a critical letter from F. Thomas Lowrey of Pittsburgh clarifying the AAAS situation and recommending V&ES, along with an excerpt from L. M. Greenberg's three-page single-spaced letter pointing out, among other things, Aveni's erroneous statement that Venus was ejected from Jupiter 2500 years ago.(90)* Earlier, in a letter Aveni sent to people who wrote him about his review, he said "My review says that I'm tired of listening, I've spent too much time listening, and all of it isn't worth listening to – and that is an objective statement."(91)
Richard Berendzen of American University reviewed Broca's Brain for Science.(92) In his three and a half column review, he remarks about Velikovsky in passing: "Sagan gives us a devastating debunking of several pseudoscientific theories.... His trenchant, somewhat technical rebuttal to Velikovsky reappears here . . ."(93) After justifying Sagan's "overkill" on pseudoscience, Berendzen observes: "In contrast, Sagan's discussion of science and theology seems unsettlingly dilettantish: Either he has cut incisively through centuries of thought and reflection or he does not fully understand the issues. Many of us would agree with his piquant views, but, laconic rather than compendious in his analysis, he has trivialized a complex subject."(94)
In the March 1978 Analog,(95) science fiction writer Lester del Rey wrote:
Analog declined to print any letters commenting on this paean.
The January 1980 issue contains a brief review of Broca's Brain by Tom Easton.(96) The ease with which he accepts Sagan's dismissal of Velikovsky is a distinct contrast to the objective set out in the issue's editorial. There, Stanley Schmidt wrote: "We shall continue to provide a forum . . . for provocative ideas," those which appear "to cast doubt on ideas so generally accepted that they are tacitly assumed to be beyond question."(97) It will be interesting to see whether or not Schmidt repudiates the antipathy toward Velikovsky displayed by his two predecessors, Ben Bova and Joseph Campbell.
THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER and PHYSICS TODAY
George O. Abell, UCLA astronomer, provides the last two U. S. reviews of SCV in 1978. The Spring/Summer Skeptical lnquirer(98) (formerly The Zetetic) contained a 3,300 word review which in being adapted for the August Physics Today,(99) was trimmed to 900 words. Whereas the longer version was inflammatory, the shorter version was toned down for its professional audience. Abell is explicit that "a comet was ejected from the planet Jupiter about the middle of the second millennium B.C."(100) About the only thing stated correctly, albeit unwittingly, is that SCV does not bury Velikovsky's ideas. Themes common to both treatments include:
Abell, disagreeing with Storer's view of the reaction to Velikovsky, doesn't "believe the scientific community felt itself the least bit threatened by Velikovskyism . . . Rather, I think the scientific reaction was one of frustration – frustration that Velikovsky was ever taken seriously, let alone believed, by the general public".(101) What this opinion completely ignores is that the suppression of Worlds in Collision began before the general public ever had a chance to read the book. To show that he is a critical reader, Abell makes some nit-picking criticisms of Mulholland's paper.
Abell might benefit from an observation of John Ziman's dealing with why the general public can be so receptive to ideas rejected by scientists:
The pepper and ginger were reserved for The Skeptical Inquirer where Abell let loose:
Velikovsky's reading of this criticism prompted a sense of amusement as smiling he recited, with a chuckle in his voice, Seneca's adage, "There is no great genius without some touch of madness".
Responding faster than usual, Physics Today printed a letter from C. J. Ransom with Abell's reply.(104) Ransom indicated the range of Ph.D. scientists who support Velikovsky and took Abell to task for not mentioning any of Sagan's mistakes considering how he picked on Mulholland. Ransom declaimed: ". . . Sagan's paper contained so many errors that one must conclude that either he is extremely stupid (which he obviously is not), exceedingly careless (your guess) or fraudulent."
In the tradition of all good defenders of a status quo, Abell avoided answering to any of Ransom's major comments while raising three new points. Abell laments: "Scientists . . . simply do not have time to become involved in a futile debate with committed believers . . .", as though committed believers were only to be found among the ranks of alleged heretics and cultists. However, it is interesting to note that, while Abell apparently does not have time for proper study of Velikovsky's works, he does have time to participate in a forum on astrology.(105) Additionally, The Skeptical Inquirer chose not to publish any reader's letters commenting on Abell's review.
The most interesting off-shoot of Abell's review is his letter in a later issue of The Skeptical Inquirer. (106) At over 1200 words, its obsequiousness is itself a testimonial to the mores of specialty science. Having been offended by Abell's criticisms, Mulholland wrote to Abell protesting them. Abell then reread, reconsidered, and recanted, pleading his "three minor 'slips'" resulted from a too hasty reading of Mulholland's succinctly reasoned paper. The final paragraph is the apotheosis of humility and deference, an unprecedented prostration:
The January 1979 Physics Today contained a much abbreviated version of the apology.(107) Although apparently overtaken by penitence, Abell did not, however, see fit to apologize to Velikovsky which the present writer had earlier encouraged him to do.(108)
A curious point emerges from the appearance of Abell's apology, namely, that neither magazine, as would be expected, printed a letter of complaint from Mulholland. Judging from the Skeptical Inquirer letter, evidently Mulholland only contacted Abell from whom he extracted atonement. Considering the high opinion Mulholland has of his own expertise in celestial mechanics,(109) he must have been incensed at having been erroneously criticized by an astronomer such as Abell who is presumably not professionally competent to judge Mulholland's chapter.(110) This last point is driven home by the fact that Abell also failed to criticize that which he should have.
Abell's review in Physics Today covered a second book, Cosmic Catastrophes by Gerrit Verschuur.(111) Although unremarked by Abell, Verschuur's book contains a startling, nontrivial parallel with Worlds in Collision. One recurring criticism of Velikovsky has been, if the catastrophe happened in historical times, why is there not more of an abundance of explicit written records [SCV, p. 89]. Verschuur unwittingly supplies an answer.
Describing the discovery in 2537 of the aftermath on Earth of a 20th century supernova, Verschuur writes: "The mass horror was never adequately described. Some countries had so few survivors that no one will ever know what really happened. In North America and United Europe tales of disasters come from a number of communities that suffered riots and complete social breakdowns."(112) This is a startling recapitulation of one of the themes in Velikovsky's work. Thus, the lack of information in the 26th century, following a 20th century catastrophe, is matter-of-factly incorporated in a science fiction story written by an astronomer; but what critics view as a present lack of information about a 15th century B. C. catastrophe supposedly proves it did not happen.
The critics would well be reminded that an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Furthermore, the evidence that does exist (e.g., the Venus tablets of Ammizaduga, myth, and sacred texts) is systematically interpreted using uniformitarian assumptions leading automatically to conclusions contravening Velikovsky's interpretation. This alleged lack of evidence is largely due to a discounting of Velikovsky's literary sources coupled, perhaps, with our present reliance on representational visual imagery, e.g., photographs, cinema, and videotape. It should be stressed that Velikovsky found abundant ancient evidence for the catastrophes that he described. The real problem, as he viewed it, is not to explain any absence of evidence, but rather to explain why people will not face the abundance of evidence that is there. This is where his theory of collective amnesia comes into play. A reading of the section "Maimonides and Spinoza, the Exegetes" in Worlds in Collision helps clarify this situation.
Euan MacKie, contributor to Pensée and founding member of the British Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (S.I.S.), wrote an irresponsible, absentminded, neutral review in the 14 September 1978 New Scientist.(113) Like Storer, MacKie confused neutrality with objectivity. Velikovsky has pointed out that maintaining neutrality "between a gross offender and the victim of the offence does not give an objective account of the realities" because "the account is biased in favor of the offender".(114)
Like Aveni and Abell before him, MacKie attributes substance to the arguments of Huber and Sagan. This lapse in critical discernment on MacKie's part is reprehensible, because Huber's insinuations are totally without merit. Any orbit taking Venus inside Earth's orbit would present a morning and evening aspect, just like Comet Kohoutek. Because Velikovsky believes Venus was ejected from Jupiter some unspecified number of centuries before – 1500, ancient records of Venus before that date do not necessarily contradict Worlds in Collision. As Rose and Vaughan(115) have amply shown, the Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga do not preserve a record of Venus' present orbit. In seconding Sagan's remarks on the long day of Joshua, MacKie ignores Juergens' counter arguments from Pensée(116) and KRONOS,(117) plus Velikovsky's position throughout Worlds in Collision(118) that axial tilt would also account for the phenomenon. The case for axial tilt or "fast precession" has recently been ingeniously developed by Peter Warlow.(119)
Furthermore, since MacKie was undoubtedly aware of the counter arguments in Pensée IVR VII and V&ES and since a book review in its finest expression is an exercise in criticism, the bounds of decorum – for which many Britons maintain the utmost respect – would not have been violated had he chosen to write a properly objective appraisal. In 1973 MacKie showed that he was capable of objectivity when, in a New Scientist article [see Note 113], he related the earlier performances of Payne-Gaposchkin and Howard Margolis. However, MacKie's closing words in his 1978 review of SCV – '"perhaps the only certainty is that the last word has not yet been said" – constitute a classic cop-out.
Editor Roger Lewin reviewed Broca's Brain in the 27 September 1979 issue of New Scientist.(120) He mentions Velikovsky twice, once in a listing of topics right after identifying Titan as Jupiter's [sic, Saturn's] largest moon and again to say the Velikovsky chapter is a tour de force. For unintended irony, Lewin's "An open-minded quest for knowledge is what Broca s Brain is really about. . . " deserves a prize.
The 9 November Nature presented what promised to be a dual review of the Cornell and KRONOS books.(121) However, of Michael Rowan-Robinson's 1,300 word (29 column inches) "Rebel without a cause", a mere 60 words were devoted exclusively to V&ES. Not one argument against SCV was even mentioned. Overall, Rowan-Robinson is generally factually accurate and rather even-handed, considering his perspective as a mainstream scientist. This is probably the least adulatory treatment of SCV as the following excerpts show:
Recognizing that the critics' arguments are "of variable quality," he nevertheless ventures they "are overwhelmingly strong enough in totality to reject Velikovsky's scenario". In conclusion, Rowan-Robinson surmises that, if the kernel of truth in Velikovskianism is that a massive long period comet approached Earth from the direction of Jupiter and appeared as a bright morning or evening star before menacing Earth, then the myths would report disaster brought to Earth by Venus, daughter of Jupiter. "Stripping Velikovsky's scenario of the direct association with Venus and Jupiter eliminates almost all the refutations offered against him . . . Can such a scenario be refuted? And if it were one day proved correct, would we say that this curmudgeonly old rebel had a cause after all?" In setting-up this debunking, Rowan-Robinson committed his most serious gaffe by referring to a comet passing "near the Earth in classical times causing chaos." Since classical times post date the 7th century B. C., when the last Velikovskian catastrophe occurred, the frame of reference is erroneous.
In a sympathetic vein, Rowan-Robinson asks: "Why should Sagan be allowed to speculate about life on Mars, extraterrestrial civilizations and 'galumping [sic, galumphing] beasts' out there, and then ridicule Velikovsky's notion of fly larvae in the tails of comets? More generally, why is it OK for Hoyle and Wickramasinghe to speculate about world-wide epidemics brought by cometary dust, and for Sagan to speculate about the evolution of human intelligence, but not OK for Velikovsky to speculate about astronomy." To which he answers: "The crucial point, to be borne in mind by all weekend cosmologists, is that . . . The more you have demonstrated that you know, the more your speculations will be listened to." He cites Hoyle, Ryle and Einstein as examples of scientists whose viewpoints outside their fields of professional expertise have been listened to respectfully.
Weekend book reviewers seem to have a facility for proposing one-legged principles that are embarrassingly easy to topple. For example, Linus Pauling, the renowned chemist, has not found his speculations on the role of Vitamin C in human nutrition and cancer prevention well-listened to by scientists, despite having two Nobel Prizes. The reason why some scientists' speculations are listened to while others are rejected forthwith is not explained by Rowan-Robinson's dictum. The reason goes beyond the mere possession of recognized credentials or demonstration of one's knowledge. Rationality and sweet reason tend to be given short shrift when strongly held beliefs are challenged by anyone, insider or outsider.
A year later, Rowan-Robinson considered Broca's Brain in 27 column inches.(122) The book inspired no awe in him and Velikovsky simply appears in a listing of the "essays on pseudoscience and fringe science". He notes Sagan's "rather uncritical enthusiasm for science and technology" which leads to an inconsistency between scientists' obligation to explain their work in exchange for freedom of inquiry and the practice of military research "controlled by governments in an atmosphere of rigid secrecy". Sagan is criticized for not explaining the differences between science and pseudoscience and chided for not being able to bring himself to mention NASA's official interpretation of the Viking search for life on Mars, namely, that Mars is chemically, not biologically, active. The end of the review cites four instances in which Sagan's knowledge of recent scientific facts is lacking precision, and one speculation so fantastic that the reviewer fades the conclusion into an ellipsis.(23)
THE BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS
Paul de Forest, professor of political science at Illinois Institute of Technology, presented his rather uninformed opinions in 400 words in the January 1979 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (124) The review appears to be uninfluenced by countervailing sources. Three comments justify this evaluation. 1) He opens by saying that the AAAS symposium was "convened to provide a forum for the examination of Velikovsky's theories in accordance with scientific rules of evidence". Ivan King put the lie to this notion when he wrote: "None of us in the scientific establishment believes that a debate about Velikovsky's views of the Solar System would be remotely justified at a serious scientific meeting."(125) More recently, Science News inadvertantly let the cat out of the bag by declaring that "the spirit of the session [on parapsychology at a meeting of the American Physical Society] was not an attempt to lay a troublesome ghost (as the American Association for the Advancement of Science tried to do with Immanuel Velikovsky), but to raise a question whether there is something here for physicists to look at".(126) 2) His evaluation is that the papers in the book "amount to a devastating rejection of Velikovsky's theories on physical, astronomical, archaeological and historical grounds". The unqualified "devastating" betrays his naiveté. As V&ES amply shows, the rejection is only "seemingly devastating". 3) Then comes the clincher, "An objective layman will be thoroughly convinced . . ." A gullible layman would certainly be convinced; the objective layman would want to hear the counter arguments. To his credit, de Forest does miss Velikovsky's paper. He is also not satisfied with Storer's explanation that the justification for the reaction in 1950 was the scientific community feelings "itself threatened by McCarthyism and anti-intellectualism".
The Bulletin selected a letter for publication, which never appeared, commenting on de Forest's review.(127) Their March issue commemorating the centennial of Einstein's birth had gone over budget, so space for letters was severely restricted until the end of the year by which time comments would supposedly be dated.(128) A follow-up letter elicited no reply.(129) This letter requested a reconsideration of the Velikovsky letter, noting the irony in the Einstein issue causing the cancellation, since Einstein had been a friend of Velikovsky's, had agreed in 1946 that Velikovsky had shown that an extra-terrestrial agent had caused world-wide devastation in the middle of the second millennium B. C.,(130) and had resolved just before his death to seek investigative help for Velikovsky after the discovery of Jupiter's radio noise.(131)
THE WHIG-STANDARD, Kingston Ontario
The choicest coverage of SCV, however, occurred in the Kingston, Ontario Whig-Standard. On May 2, 1978, Terence Dickinson, formerly editor of Astronomy and now editor of Star and Sky, presented his tribute to Sagan and Huber in a two column "Worlds in Collision: Counter-attack".(132) After citing seven of Sagan's points, Dickinson writes: "And so it goes on with argument after argument of Velikovsky refuted or shown to be grossly in error." He also summarizes Huber's arguments and allows that they are "Perhaps the most devastating piece of evidence to Velikovsky's theories".
On June 1st, Queen's University professor of philosophy E. J. Bond rebutted Dickinson with "Science in Collision – and Collusion"(33) in a full page format containing over twice the column inches of print. Bond pointed out that Dickinson had quoted what Sagan said Velikovsky said and further explained: "Not only did Sagan not demolish any of Velikovsky's theories, he did not present any of them with accuracy, and he offered no criticism to which Velikovsky did not have a reply." Most of Dickinson's Sagan material was rebutted as well as all of the Huber material. Bond concludes:
In the age of specialization there is no room for interdisciplinary synthesis, and above all no room for the polymath – the man who is knowledgeable in many fields. Besides, Velikovsky is not even a member of the club.
How reviewers can let themselves be so misled is astounding. It is hard to believe they are so unfamiliar with the Velikovsky literature, so lacking in independent critical faculties, so anxious to parrot the uninformed opinions of their colleagues and so inertia-bound that they seem constitutionally unable to seek out counter arguments. Any comparison of what Velikovsky says and what Sagan says Velikovsky says would put the lie to the thoroughness of Sagan's analysis, as Bond pointed out.
Any scrutiny of the physics of Sagan's own counter arguments would reveal the pathetic errors that only pride can explain. Two will suffice as examples. C. J. Ransom dispatched Appendix I explaining that Sagan, in effect, did not appear to know the difference between kinematics [analysis using velocities] and dynamics [analysis using accelerations, the "stuff" of universal gravitation] (134) George R. Talbott has exposed the abject vacuousness of Sagan's Appendix 3(135) showing in detail that, since Sagan's analysis ignores the essential parameters of Venus' mass, surface area, and specific heat, his result is irrelevant. Furthermore, not only would Venus not cool to 79K as Sagan erroneously claims but a physically valid computation would show Venus cooling to essentially the measured surface temperature! Errors such as these, not to mention the flagrant misrepresentations of Velikovsky's text, are hardly what is expected to be found in the putative, definitive refutation of Velikovsky's theomachy. The psychological aspects of the continuing "Velikovsky Affair" deserve more attention.
Interestingly, this Whig-Standard episode has an encouraging follow up. The August 1979 UFO Report printed an article by Dickinson(136) about the Pioneer Venus results. Evidently, he had reconsidered his opinion of Velikovsky after Bond's rebuttal. His "cynical distaste" had changed to "healthy skepticism".(137) The following statements illustrate this turnabout. Dickinson reports that, in view of the argon 36 data, Velikovsky's "catastrophically violent origin for the formation of Venus, although by no means confirmed by the recent findings, cannot be ruled out either".(138) This, in conjunction with the controversial nature of the mathematical models underlying the greenhouse mechanism leads to his conclusion that "Velikovsky's contention of internally generated heat cannot yet be ruled out".(139)
A related passage meriting quotation is the following:
Dickinson observes that the tradition of wrong guesses about Venus continues to this day. One of his closing thoughts is that if Velikovsky is ultimately proved wrong he would be in good company. "For example, an idea put forward about a decade ago by Carl Sagan that a zone in Venus' atmosphere might be suitable for supporting some form of life (see "Conquering Venus," UFO Report, July '78) seems more remote than ever in view of the latest findings."(141)
Finally, here is an example of a person open-minded enough to step back after agreeing with the conclusions in SCV and give Velikovsky a re-hearing when confronted with the counter arguments. As Dickinson shows, the road to Damascus always lies open, even to such as Sagan have they but the courage.
However, as a scientist known for his espousal of "far-out" ideas – even UFO's at one time – Sagan has been careful in all instances, except Velikovsky, not to foreclose options so that, whatever the outcome, he will not have been wrong.
In the July 1978 Fate, J. Gordon Melton spent three quarters of a page reporting on V&ES.(142) The summary of the background from 1950 to 1974 is marred by several petty errors such as saying Velikovsky submitted Worlds in Collision to Macmillan in 1950 instead of 1946. The summary takes up two thirds of the review, leaving the balance for V&ES which is recommended as required reading for anyone who had read Sagan's paper and worthwhile for anyone only mildly interested in Velikovsky. Disappointingly, no Counter arguments against Sagan are mentioned.
Treatments of Velikovsky in those organs that reviewed both SCV and Broca's Brain (BB) have been discussed above. This Section deals with those who, as far as is known, did not review SCV but did BB. In addition to Science, New Scientist, and Nature, reviewers in four other sources were able to discuss BB without dwelling on Velikovsky. These were Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in The New York Times,(143) Sydney J. Harris in the Chicago Sun Times,(144) Michael Rogers in the Washington Post,(145) and Edmund Fuller in The Wall Street Journal.(146) Four others, noted earlier, devoted substantial space to Worlds in Collision: Martin Gardner in New York Review, Robert Jastrow in The New York Times Book Review, Time, and National Review.
. . . to be continued.
REFERENCES AND NOTES63. Carl Sagan, "Venus and Dr. Velikovsky," in Broca 's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (Random House, 1979), pp. 81-127, 317-19 and 320-27. This version of Sagan's analysis, while basically the same as the SCV version, contains many corrections, changes, additions and deletions. The grammar, syntax and punctuation have finally been reworked by a competent editor. Jupiter's escape velocity has been corrected, as has the fractured story about Moses striking his staff upon the rock. The name Red Sea now appears inside quotation marks. The new editor knows how to spell "Pharaoh" and "Ajalon". The alleged Korean record of the Crab super nova has been replaced by the recently recognized Arab one. Sagan's reference to Kohoutek has been enhanced by adding 1975 [sic, 1974] as its date of appearance. Dates have been reworked: "tens of thousands B. C." has been changed to "10,000 B. C."; "sixth century B. C." corrected to seventh; 4.5 billion years changed to 4.6 billion. References to Viking 1 and 2 and Pioneer Venus missions have been added while Pioneer 10 has been replaced by Voyager 1. The discussion of Mars' atmosphere updates our knowledge of argon and neon abundance and now admits to 1 percent nitrogen which had previously been ignored. Sagan has added the God of Jesus and Muhammed to the God of Moses in his benediction.
Other changes have been more insidious. Whereas in SCV Sagan conceded that he
believed not all of Velikovsky's legendary concordances could be explained by
coincidence, he now believes all can. The new paragraph immediately preceeding
the penultimate one begins: "In the entire Velikovsky affair, the only aspect worse
than the shoddy, ignorant and doctrinaire approach of Velikovsky and many of his
supporters was the disgraceful attempt by some who called themselves scientists to
suppress his writings." Despite the balance, the choice of words reaches a new
level of insolence. The irony is that the approach Sagan ascribes to Velikovskians
applies to himself in spades. None of the changes in his paper corrects a single
major error. For example, according to Sagan, Mars still stole part of Earth's
atmosphere – an example of Sagan's reversing Velikovsky's text.
The October 1974 Analog was a "Special Velikovsky Issue" with a cover
illustration showing Mars and Earth close together joined by lightning tendrils.
Explicit Velikovsky material was provided by Ben Bova's editorial "the whole
TRUTH", pp. 5-6, 8-11; Frederic B. Jueneman, "the search for truth", pp. 25-37
and Isaac Asimov, "CP", pp. 38-50. [The issue was also supposed to have an
interview with Velikovsky by Joseph Goodavage. However, he missed Analog's
deadline. It is this interview that should have been in Goodavage's latest book,
Storm on the Sun (Signet, 1979). Instead, Goodavage reprinted, without
acknowledging so, the interview that originally appeared in the July 1968 Science
and Mechanics Jueneman wrote a reply to Asimov's "CP" for which Analog had
the right of first refusal, which, when it did, appeared in KRONOS I: 3 (November
1975) titled "pc", pp. 73-83.] The "Brass Tacks" section of the February 1975
Analog, pp. 167-178, was devoted entirely to twenty-four letters commenting on
the Velikovsky coverage. The June 1975 issue contained three letters, pp. 173-175, commenting on the February letters, including Asimov's reply opening with:
"I have just looked over the letter column in the February 1975 issue and have
taken note of all the sweet valentines I received for daring to say that Velikovskian
notions are well-rotted horse manure." Irving Michelson's "Velikovsky's
Catastrophism . . . A Scientific View", pp. 65-76, also appeared in the June issue.
Michelson surveyed the evidence pro and con, including Bass' work, derived a box
score of two no's and two maybe's, and concluded: "The GOOD NEWS for Dr.
Velikovsky is not here yet." Although letters on Michelson's article were never
printed, the last letter in the November 1975 issue, pp. 176-177, was a response to
Bova's Velikovsky remark in the June editorial, "None So Blind". A sentence in
Bova's reply to the first letter in the December 1975 issue, pp. 171-173, ended the
discussion on Velikovsky thus: "If there's one thing that the Velikovsky 'debate'
proved, it's that most people have their minds made up and won't listen to another
point of view, except to attempt to refute it."