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KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 2
KARL POPPER AND EVOLUTIONARY THEORYTo the Editor of KRONOS:
About fifty years ago a certain philosopher, Karl Popper, tried to convince his readers that a statement or a theory is a scientific one only if it is falsifiable: by which he meant, logically inconsistent with some (true or false) observation statement. Mr. Bethell (KRONOS VII:4, p. 36), and Mr. Brady (quoted p. 5, same issue), seem to take it entirely for granted that Popper was right. I wonder why this should be so. Since when has Popper's word been law?
Anyway, any competent philosopher of science could have told Mr. Bethell and Mr. Brady that Popper's idea is in fact a lousy one. Scarcely any scientific theory is falsifiable, in Popper's sense. Newtonian physics, for example, is not falsifiable. (See I. Lakatos, in The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Open Court, 1974, p. 247; or my Popper and After, Pergamon Press, 1982, pp. 91-3.) So if Darwin's theory is unfalsifiable, that does not stop it being a scientific theory.
On p. 34 of the same issue, Mr. Bethell makes another and even worse mistake (and one which Popper for his part certainly did not make). This is, in supposing that if a statement is unfalsifiable, it is tautological. Nothing could be more absurd. For example, the statement that there is at least one neutron, or that there is at least one human, is unfalsifiable in Popper's sense. But it is evident that these statements are not tautological.
Traditional and Modern Philosophy
To the Editor of KRONOS:
The emphasis in your recent issue (VII:4) on evolution was most interesting. I would, if I may, like to make some comments.
The question has to be asked whether evolutionary theory is, in fact, "scientific". One definition of scientific method has been delineated by philosopher of science, Karl R. Popper. In his classic, which dates to the mid '30's,(1) Popper lays out his requirements for new scientific theories: (2)
The first of these is straight-forward and needs no comment (although I might add that nature doesn't always bother with Ockham's razor!). For the second, testing is done by predicting previously unobserved phenomena. The third, although seemingly trite, is also necessary since it allows us to winnow the chaff of a theory from the seed. Evolutionary theory, not just Darwinism, fails the second requirement because evolutionary change is an historical process. Popper notes that:
The fact that certain species changed in certain ways or by certain means may be verifiable, but any theory which attempts to predict the direction or character of that change is doomed to failure because historical change is not predictable (Marx, notwithstanding).
If evolution is an historical process, then, it must be understood in an historical way. Much that has been written by paleontologists, as they reconstruct the events of the geological past, does not require evolutionary theory. However, the presuppositions which burden that theory, particularly "uniformity", have blinded mainstream paleontology to the catastrophic character of the geological record. That demonstrates that one's presuppositions, whether declared or not, exert greater control over one's conclusions than does the data. Darwin, himself, is a case in point! (But I've discussed the crucial importance of a carefully defined method in my paper, "An Empirical Analysis and Evaluation of Velikovsky's Methods" [Unpublished] .)
There are some who may not find the rigorous character of Popper's definition to their taste. He is, admittedly, using theoretical physics as his model, or, to use the currently popular word, paradigm. But his model has some consequences. The first is that theories are not deductive in origin, rather inductive. The human mind provides the initial systhesis, the grand design, the spark, which later has to be tested. A second consequence of Popper's model is that all theories have inherently a low probability. They are acceptable only because of their verified predictions. Hence, in "hard" science, to speak of a theory as highly probable is the height of irrelevancy. Only a theory's predictive power is relevant. But since the theory of evolution, to return to our main point, is certainly not predictive, is it descriptive?
Although historiography (my model of a descriptive endeavor, if you will) may, to most persons' minds, have less rigorous standards for evaluating its constructs than science, this is not necessarily the case. Ideally, verification in historical studies is as rigorous as the testing procedure for scientific theories outlined above. But since historiography is a descriptive, not a predictive, activity, its method of verifying a particular construct relies on the data potentially available to describe the events in that construct. And here we run into the concept of "falsifiability" discussed by Bethell.(4) Can Darwinism, a descriptive construct, be proven false by some item of data? The answer, as Bethell illustrates in his article, is no! Darwin's "fitness" criterion for survival cannot logically be falsified since it is a tautology. The problem of logically unfalsifiable presuppositions has already cropped up elsewhere in the sciences. Through the "pioneering" work of Bronislaw Malinowski, anthropology has been saddled with the same situation. Malinowski's formulation of "functionalism" in social anthropology includes the supposition that every social activity has a function within society. Only in the last 25 years have anthropologists (and sociologists, who imported Malinowski's method) recognized the difficulty, principally because some societies have activities which appear to have no function!(5)
Further, Darwin's "fitness" criterion has no explanatory power, as noted by Macbeth.(6) But if it has no explanatory power, it is useless as a descriptive hypothesis.
So, given these two logical faults in the Darwinian bulwark, what's to be done? Sandbagging, as some are doing, can only last so long with the critical floodwaters rising! Since it cannot be falsified and it doesn't explain anything, Darwinism might as well be abandoned as Macbeth(7) suggests. But the question still remains whether a stripped-down evolutionary theory could be viable as a descriptive hypothesis. That would, of course, depend on its formulation; the one briefly sketched by Macbeth would not. Like the latter problem with Darwinism above, it has no explanatory power.
To conclude, then, I have observed that evolutionary theory is not "hard" science since it is unable to predict new phenomena. It must remain a descriptive pursuit since the substance of its study, history, is not predictable. But this is certainly not to denigrate it; entomologists have been contentedly describing insects for over a century. But evolutionary theory also has serious problems as a descriptive hypothesis. The Darwinian formulation must certainly be thrown out because of its logical deficiencies. And only time will tell what any new formulation might look like.
Kirk L. Thompson
REFERENCES1. Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London, 1968 [2nd English ed.]), pp. 464 ff.
2. Ibid., pp. 240 ff.
3. Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (N. Y., 1965 [2nd ed.]), p. 340.
4. Tom Bethell, "Darwin's Unfalsifiable Theory," KRONOS VII:4 (July, 1982), pp. 33-7.
5. I. C. Jarvie, "Limits of Functionalism and Alternatives to It in Anthropology," Functionalism in the Social Sciences: The Strengths and Limits of Functionalism in Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, and Sociology (D. Martindale, ed., Phila.1965), pp. 18-34.
6. Norman Macbeth, "How to Defuse a Feud," KRONOS VII:4 (July, 1982), p. 2.
7. Ibid., p. 1.
Editor's Comment: Mr. Thompson's remarks are thoughtful, but they require two points of clarification:
In the 21 August 1980 issue, p. 611, Popper's letter to the editor asserted:
On the same page, Hermann Bondi advised "that whenever [a] discipline makes statements that can have testable consequences, however indirect, it is scientific by Popper's criterion'. - CLE
CHARLES FORT ON CHARLES DARWINTo the Editor of KRONOS:
With reference to KRONOS VII:4 (p. 2), I would have found it not wholly inappropriate to mention, at least in a footnote, that already 60 years before the brilliant young philosopher [R. H. Brady] of 1979, Charles Fort – whose highly original writings provide such an extremely healthy counterweight to the dogmatic pronouncements of clowns within and without the establishment - in his Book of the Damned (p. 24 in my 1957 edition [p. 40 in the 1972 Ace edition]), unmasked Darwinism in the same way: "...., but Darwinism of course was never proved: The fittest survive. What is meant by the fittest? .... There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive. 'Fitness', then is only another name for 'survival'. Darwinism: That survivors survive" (emphasis added).*
Dr. Horst Friedrich
Worthsee, Fed. Rep. of Germany
[*Editor's Note: Charles Fort was referred to, albeit in a paraphrased way, by Peter J. James in his review of Ever Since Darwin (KRONOS VII:4, pp. 26-27). - LMG]
ON POLAR SHIFTS AND THE METEOR SHOWER OF -687In a note following my "Postscript" (KRONOS VII:3, p. 88), Lynn E. Rose maintains that if Velikovsky had seen an Indian celestial chart "that put the celestial equator within a few degrees of the zenith of, say, Calcutta, that would have been more than sufficient for his purposes", namely to place the former terrestrial north pole near Baffin Island. But a chart with such a notation would tell us only the latitude of the city, and as I explained, this is not sufficient information to determine the position of the pole, which could be many thousands of miles from Baffin Island.
In any case, Velikovsky himself later retreated somewhat from the position taken on polar shifts in Worlds in Collision. "The present azimuth (orientation) of the sides of the Great Pyramid indicates that any disturbance in the geographical position of the poles since it was built must have been of a temporary character, the Earth's equatorial bulge acting as a stabilizer" (see "A Rejoinder to Burgstahler and Angino," Yale Scientific Magazine, April, 1967, p. 22; Velikovsky Reconsidered, pp.59-60).
On page 89 of KRONOS VII:3, Jan Sammer comments on the meteor shower of 687 B.C.: "What is truly remarkable ....is the observation.... that even in the absence of any clouds, the fixed stars were not visible. I cannot think of any other physical explanation except that the view was obscured by a canopy of dust particles" almost certainly "of cosmic origin". A meteor shower is in fact a cloud of dust, sand, and pebbles, but so highly rarefied that it affords very feeble resistance to starlight. Faint stars have been seen shining through the tails of comets, which are believed to be the source of meteor showers.
A fine haze could dim the light of the stars, however, or the brilliance of the meteors could temporarily outdazzle them. The explicit statement of the T'ung Chien Kang Mu that the sky was cloudless is probably an inference from the comment in the Tso Chuan that "the night was bright". If there were clouds, it would be dark. In this connection, two observations collected by Zhuang Tianshan in "Ancient Chinese Records of Meteor Showers" (Chinese Astronomy Vol. l, pp. 197-220) are worth noting: On November 3,1533, "stars fell like rain and the sky thereby turned red". And on June 12, 1547, "stars fell like rain .... and the sky glowed like fire".
[Editor's Note: If all we are told is that the zenith of the city lies approximately on the celestial equator, then Mewhinney is correct in saying that "this is not sufficient information to determine the position of the pole". But if the chart shows the placement or course of the celestial equator among the stars, which is what I was referring to, that is sufficient to the purpose. - LER ]
MORE ON METEOR SHOWERSTo the Editor of KRONOS:
Meteors can be seen any night of the year. Their numbers increase from sunset until just before dawn, as the region of the sky toward which the Earth is moving rises overhead. The individual particles which produce them, no bigger than pebbles,(1) are separated by many miles. In space they are invisible, but on entering our atmosphere, which functions as a gigantic particle detector, they may become briefly spectacular. They burn out at high altitudes, reaching the Earth's surface only as a fine dust. A large proportion of these – at the rate of about five per hour - are sporadic, but on certain dates of the year, meteors in considerable numbers can be seen radiating from well-defined points in the sky. These are meteor showers.
From the position of its radiant and the velocity of the particles, the orbit of a shower can be computed. In many cases, the orbit closely matches that of a comet, from which their cometary origin is argued. If the shower has a high inclination to the ecliptic, it is less subject to perturbation by the other planets, and its orbit may remain stable for a very long time. The basic period of a shower is the sidereal year, after which the Earth once again passes through that point where the orbit of the shower intersects its own. But there are longer periods, based on the orbital period of the shower, such as the 33-year period of the Leonids, when shower activity may rise to a peak many times greater than is observed in other years. If a shower is very old, "the particles.....become distributed fairly uniformly around the orbit of the parent comet so that little or no trace of the comet's own periodicity is left, and each year we encounter a shower of roughly similar strength".(2)
Several times in a century we encounter a veritable blizzard of meteors, like the one displayed by the Leonids in 1966. In a normal year, an observer with the Leonid radiant overhead might expect to see as many as ten meteors an hour at the period of peak activity. But on November 17, 1966, a team of observers in Arizona estimated that meteors were appearing at a peak rate of 2400 per minute.(3) To compare such an intense shower with falling raindrops is the most natural reaction in the world, and has occurred many times to witnesses through the centuries. According to Brown,(4) an unnamed "Turkish historian records that on 12th October AD 902, 'when King Ibrahin-Ben-Ahmed died an immense number of falling stars were seen to spread themselves over the face of the sky like rain' ". In "Ancient Chinese Records of Meteor Showers", Zhuang Tianshan lists 70 instances in which stars were said to fall like rain (and once, like snowflakes).(5) Many other examples can be found in Imoto and Hasegawa's "Historical Records of Meteor Showers in China, Korea, and Japan".(6)
In "On 'The Year -687'" (KRONOS VI:4, note 7), I pointed out that nouns in Chinese have no plural form. Thus the phrase was rendered "stars fell like rain" by Biot, and "a star fell in the form of rain" by Remusat. In Mankind in Amnesia (just published at time of writing), Velikovsky compounded these two translations: "The Chinese records....tell of a star falling in a rain of shooting stars."(7)
On the basis of date alone, many ancient observations can be identified with major showers with reasonable confidence. Thus the shower of March 23, 687 B.C. (Julian) has been identified with the April Lyrids. The orbit of the Lyrids is inclined 80° to the ecliptic, and is very close to that of its presumed parent comet 1861 I. The shower is visible from about April 19-24, with a peak on the evening of the 22nd, when it produces around twelve meteors an hour for an observer with the radiant overhead, in an average year. The Gregorian equivalent of March 23 Julian in the seventh century B.C. is March 16. The Ch'un Ch'iu shower took place near midnight. If we take this as referring to the evening, not the morning, of that day – which seems probable in light of later Chinese practice(8) - this is 37 days earlier in the solar year than the present-day peak. The difference is due to precession over the past 27 centuries.
Despite their ordinarily weak intensity, the Lyrids have made other impressive displays in the past. Another report comes from China: On March 27 (Julian), 15 B.C., "after midnight, stars fell like rain, ten or twenty feet (degrees) long. (They appeared) continuously and were extinguished before they reached the earth. At cockcrow they stopped."(9) In April, 1803, one observer "counted 167 meteors in about 15 minutes, and could not then number them all".(10) On April 22, 1922, an observer in eastern Europe counted "considerably more than one Lyrid per minute".(11) These observations reveal no obvious periodicity.
NOTES1. "On the average a meteoroid that produces a zero-magnitude meteor weighs close to one gram." Most of the particles are far smaller and never become visible. Peter M. Millman, "Meteor" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition (1979). See also Millman, "Interplanetary Dust" in Naturwissenschaften Vol. 66 (1979), pp. 135 and 136. Meteorites, which can weigh many tons, are not associated with meteor showers.
2. D. W. R. McKinley, Meteor Science and Engineering (N.Y., 1961), p. 8.
3. Sky and Telescope, January, 1967, pp. 4 ff.
4. Peter Lancaster Brown, Comets, Meteorites, and Men (London, 1973), p. 204.
5. In Chinese Astronomy, Vol. 1 (1977), pp. 197-220.
6. Susumo Imoto and Ichiro Hasegawa, in Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics, Vol 2, No. 6 (1958), pp. 131-144.
7. Mankind in Amnesia (N.Y., 1982), p. 44.
8. See T. Kiang, "On the Date Used in Chinese Historical Annals when Recording Observations Made During the Latter Half of the Night, "Chinese Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 5 (1981), pp. 111-121.
9 Pan Ku, History of the Former Han Dynasty, tr. Homer H. Dubs (Baltimore, 1938), Vol. 2, p. 403, note 11.9.
10. Charles P. Olivier, Meteors (Baltimore, 1925), p. 63.
11. Ibid., p. 64.
THE HOUSE OF SOLOMONTo the Editor of KRONOS:
In his article titled "The Sulman Temple in Jerusalem" (KRONOS V:2, p. 3), Immanuel Velikovsky writes: "ln the el-Amarna letters No. 74 and 290 there is reference to a place read (by Knudtzon) Bet-NIN.IB." Velikovsky had followed this reading in Ages in Chaos. But in his KRONOS article, Velikovsky refers to an article by Professor Jules Lewy in the Journal of Biblical Literature (1940) titled "The Sulman Temple in Jerusalem". There, Lewy read the place as Bit Sulmani; and on the basis of Lewy's reading, Velikovsky identifies the place as the Temple of Solomon.
To my mind, however, this place was the house which Solomon built. "But his own house was Solomon building thirteen years, and then he finished all his house" (I Kings 7:1) Again there is reference to "his own house" in II Chronicles 8:1. In I Kings 9:1, it is called "the king's house" while in II Chronicles 7:11 it is referred to as "the king's house" as well as "his own house". Thus, this was the Palace of Solomon.
In 1953 I identified the two Jehorams as kings of Judah and Israel in the el-Amarna period. This I made known to Dr. Velikovsky (VELIKOVSKY to DYEN, November 30, 1953).* Concerning the period of Jehoram, the king of Judah, II Chronicles 21:17 says: "And they went up against Judah, and made an incursion into it, and carried away all the substance that was found in the king's house." This agrees well with the events mentioned in the el-Amarna letters. From the Scriptures we learn that "the king's house" was captured, and from the el-Amarna letters we learn that "the house of Solomon" (the Palace of Solomon) was taken. Furthermore, it becomes evident who the so-called Habiru of the el-Amarna letters were. They are to be identified with the Arabians mentioned in II Chronicles 21:16 and 22:1 as being invaders.
New York, NY
[*Editor's Note: The reader is also referred to the following two articles by Peter J. James and Martin Sieff, respectively: "The Dating of the El-Amarna Letters" and "The Two Jehorams" in SIS Review II:3 (1977/78), pp. 80-90. Also see KRONOS V:2, p. 5 and KRONOS V:4, pp. 93-94 for other interpretations of Bit Sulmani. - LMG ]
MORE ON HAREMHAB'S PLACE IN EGYPTIAN HISTORYTo the Editor of KRONOS:
In Velikovsky's original sequel to Ages in Chaos I, after bringing evidence ("skillfully and persuasively" in Gammon's words(1)) that "the rule of Haremhab must be considered as that of a king named to administer Egypt by the decree of a foreign king", Velikovsky writes: Haremhab "was appointed to his post in Egypt by Sennacherib or Esarhaddon".(2) And again, in the next section: "The question to decide is not whether Haremhab lived in the fourteenth or the seventh century, but only whether he assumed his post in Egypt in the days of Sennacherib or of Esarhaddon...."(3) And while Velikovsky then opted for the first alternative, he preceded it with the words: "A tentative reconstruction of events would suggest the following sequence."(4)
Later, Velikovsky elaborated on the subject in his article "The Correct Placement of Haremhab in Egyptian History".(5) Since he wrote, in this more detailed article, that it was "not because of any unusual importance of his [Haremhab's] historical role" but because of its implications for the reconstruction after the 18th Dynasty, it is strange that Gammon - though admitting, and himself claiming, that the correct placement of Haremhab is "crucial" for Velikovsky's reconstruction - does not consider, nor even mention the alternative solution that Haremhab ruled in Esarhaddon's time.(6)
If Gammon had considered such an alternative solution, he would have found that his "key question"(7) and criticism, that there is no Assyrian evidence for Sennacherib's conquest of Egypt, while Esarhaddon "left records of successful campaigns against the Ethiopian rulers Tarku (Taharqa) and Urdamane...." does not contradict Velikovsky's understanding of Haremhab's crucial placement in the time of the Assyrian conquests in the first quarter of the seventh century.
Such an alternate synchronism would also move Haremhab's rule by ca. 15 years, from -702 to -687 to -688 to -672, which would dispose of Gammon's criticism that Haremhab and Ramses I (Necho I) appear together though Necho I was appointed only in -671; it would reduce the Mininwy age problem; and it would eliminate his claim that Haremhab, still as governor, and Tirhaka (Taharqa) could not have been depicted together since Tirhaka started his rule only in -690.*
Such an alternate date for Haremhab, in fact, now leaves Gammon to explain Hor-em-heb as governor-priest appearing together with Tirhaka in the Ethiopian temple at Karnak.
[*Editor's Note: It is conceivable, given the newly proposed dates for Haremhab's reign, that Haremhab was able to achieve Pharaonic status in 680 B.C. with the support and promised protection of Esarhaddon who assumed the Assyrian throne in that same year. This could account for the official 8-year regnal period attributed to Haremhab (680-672 B.C.) by J. R. Harris and followed by Gammon (see SISR III:2, p. 56). As an aside, the reader is also referred to some interesting remarks by W. Stevenson Smith in The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, p. 239. - LMG]
Velikovsky's "ingenious (in Gammon's words) solution" of "year 59" as being that of the era of Nabonassar would then mean that this 59th year (-688) was the beginning rather than the end of Haremhab's rule. It would thus have started in Tirhaka's second year (which might explain the hieratic docket naming Haremhab as royal scribe in "year 2" of an unnamed king(8)).
Going over Gammon's other points, and assuming Carlucci's explanation that "Haremhab would have preferred - for political reasons – to attach himself to the last legitimate native rulers by any means possible"(9) as a valid argument, we find very little left of substance in Gammon's balance sheet of "linking Haremhab to the late XVIIIth Dynasty". And synchronizing Haremhab with Esarhaddon leaves very little in his balance sheet of "opposing arguments for an early 7th century date for Haremhab".(10)
Rereading Velikovsky's articles, we find - on the other side of the sheet that Haremhab's links to Assyrian culture; the evidence that he was an appointed ruler by a foreign king; and his Ethiopian links – such as that to Petamenophis (which Gammon admits to be "anomalous") and to Tirhaka - are very strong and insistent.
REFERENCES1. G. Gammon, "Haremhab: Assyrian Vassal or XVIIIth Dynasty Pharaoh?", KRONOS
VII:1 (Fall 1981), p. 86.
2. I. Velikovsky, "From the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty to the Time of Ramses II",
KRONOS III:3 (Spring 1978), p. 17 (emphasis added).
3. Ibid., section "Haremhab Harmais", p. 20 (emphasis added).
4. Ibid. (emphasis added) .
5. KRONOS IV:3 (Spring 1979), pp. 3-22 (p. 4).
6. G. Gammon, op. cit., pp. 81 ff.
7. Ibid, pp. 85-86.
8. Ibid., p. 92 and n. 38.
9. D. Carlucci, Jr., "On the Placement of Haremhab: A Critique of Gammon", KRONOS V:3 (Spring 1980), p. 12.
10. Gammon, op. cit., p. 92. [Two remaining arguments by Gammon - the evidence of Cairo Statue No.42129 and the text in the Memphite tomb chapel of Mose (KRONOS VII:1, pp. 89-90) - are not really sufficiently compelling; and the criticisms of these two arguments by Carlucci in KRONOS V:3, pp. 15-16, remain challenging. - LMG]
SHAMIR AND OPHIRTo the Editor of KRONOS:
In KRONOS VI:l (pp. 48-50) you published a paper by Velikovsky titled "Shamir", followed by a correspondence in KRONOS VI:2 (pp. 85-91) - "The Stone of Shamir" – by Frederic B. Jueneman. To both articles there may be found an unexpected answer, from another part of the world, to the question: "What was it like?"
In the book Indaba, My Children by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa (Johannesburg, 1965, pp. 227-228), one can read the following:
Mutwa further mentions that only the Emperor and a number of priests in charge of the idol with the wondrous stone were allowed to expose themselves to its filtered radiation, thus obtaining the said superior qualities of vision and power.
On pp. 298-299 of the same book are described by Mutwa - from High Oral African Tradition – the horrible effects of the naked radiation of the stone, causing the death of the traitor Vamba Nyaloti.
In the case of Solomon, the possession of a similar "wondrous" stone might well have bestowed on him special "visionary" qualities and power as well like those reported by Mutwa from Zima-Mbje – taking into consideration his still lasting fame of "great wisdom". But we must keep in mind that, according to Mutwa, the Arab-Bantu-Hottentot Slave Empire that was once centered in the fortress known to us as "Simbabwe" [Zimbabwe] was a replica of a much earlier Phoenician slave-empire in the same region. However, its capital Makari-Kari was more to the west at the shore of a large salt lake, now a shallow salt pan in the Kalahari desert.
This now brings us to a second question: From whence could Solomon have gotten his "Stone of Shamir", "the most wondrous" of his prized possessions? Might the word "oferet", translated as "lead" (KRONOS VI: 1, p. 49) – which characterized the kind of tube in which Solomon's Shamir was kept – indicate the name Ophir, the fabled land that many scholars identify with East Africa or Africa in general?* Was Shamir a forerunner of the Eye of Odu?
Editor's Note: On Ophir and Africa, see Reader's Digest Atlas of the Bible (N.Y.,1981), p. 102; I. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos (N.Y., 1952), p. 126. On Ophir in India, see Richard D. Barnett, "Phoenician-Punic Art", Encyclopedia of World Art, Vol. XI (N.Y., 1966), p. 299. While there is, in fact, more than one word for "lead" in Hebrew, the case being made for oferet may seem somewhat strained in the present context. Further study is certainly called for. Also see "Ophir" in Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. III). pp. 605-606. LMG
"MANKIND IN AMNESIA": A REVIEW?To the Editor of KRONOS :
A book review of Immanuel Velikovsky's Mankind in Amnesia(1) appearing in the March issue of DISCOVER is in such marked contrast to previous reviews by the same author as to make one think it was written by a different person.
In previous reviews Monte Davis has been accurate and fair in his appraisals. He has shown insight and has commented critically on each book's appeal and value, or lack of these, with wit and respect. He has demonstrated that he makes the effort to become versed in the fields and familiar with the literature touched on by his reviews. With his March review there was a striking change in his style.
To introduce his readers to the subject area about to be critiqued, he summarized Velikovsky's general thesis which he says is derived from Worlds in Collision. His summary bears a heavy resemblance to a section by Carl Sagan(2) in the book Scientists Confront Velikovsky, entitled "Velikovsky's Principal Hypothesis". Davis, however, inaccurately said that around 1500 B.C. the planet Jupiter ejected a comet. Sagan did not make this mistake. Sagan also advised that substantive objection is permissible and encouraged, but that ad hominem attacks on the personality or motives of the author are excluded. Davis used ad hominem.
When geology neophyte Fred Hoyle proposed his own theory for the ice ages in his book Ice, Davis(3) was fair to mention that sometimes a neophyte's approach is just what a tangled problem calls for. Even if wrong the neophyte would undoubtedly force the specialists to clarify their own models in order to show how far wrong the neophyte had gone. This same fair-mindedness was not shown to Velikovsky.
In the polywater affair, Davis(4) was keen to point out that many good "respectables" had failed to pay attention to minute details while finding it much more exciting to produce a new theory of chemical bonding. Yet he ignored the failures of many "respectables" when they discussed Velikovsky's theories.
In earlier reviews Davis was familiar with the field of psychology: the psychology of character(5) and the innovative and complex psychology in Conrad and Henry James.(6) Yet about Mankind in Amnesia, written by a psychoanalyst about a psychoanalytical technique, he said that it was flatly contradictory to what is known of physics, geology, and biology. He did not reference any section from any physics or geology text which dealt with psychoanalytical modeling. Nor did he reference any biology text which indicated that Velikovsky's successfully applied technique was contradictory to the principles of psychoanalysis.
If he had not been at least intuitively familiar with the psychological phenomena discussed in Mankind in Amnesia, he would not have written in a previous review of the poetic sense when one looks at a reconstruction of Tyrannosaurus Rex and feels a very mammalian chill.(7) The aforementioned "slip-ups" by Davis were brought to the attention of DISCOVER managing editor Leon Jaroff. In addition, he was informed that in previous reviews Davis concentrated an average of 84% of his review on the book or subject directly touched on by the book. But in the case of Mankind in Amnesia he only put in 28%. Further, Davis failed to mention that many "respectables" in Egyptology admire Velikovsky's contribution and that Velikovsky succeeded in predicting magnetospheres where Einstein failed, which was no small feat especially for a neophyte.
A published response by the people at DISCOVER over the furor created by Davis's review has not been forthcoming. It is worth noting, though, that since a review by Davis first appeared in the second issue of DISCOVER, no two issues have gone by without one of his reviews, that is until his review of Mankind in Amnesia. Since then no additional reviews have appeared, not in five subsequent issues. In addition, in a review by Mayo Mohs(8) in the May issue, Velikovsky was name-dropped in a less vituperative light.
Henry A. Hoff
NOTES1. Monte Davis, "Mankind in Amnesia by Immanuel Velikovsky," Books, DISCOVER 3 (3), (March 1982), pp. 88-9.
2. Carl Sagan, "Velikovsky's Principal Hypothesis," Scientists Confront Velikovsky, D. Goldsmith, ed., Cornell University: Ithaca, New York, pp. 56-60.
3. Monte Davis, "Ice by Fred Hoyle," Books, DISCOVER 2 (11), (November 1981), pp. 92-3.
4. Monte Davis, "Polywater by Felix Franks," Books, DISCOVER 2 (6), (June 1981), pp.88-9
5. Monte Davis, "Flim-Flam! The Truth About Unicorns, Parapsychology and Other Delusions by James Randi," Books, DISCOVER 2 (1), (January 1981), p. 85.
6. Monte Davis, "The Science Fiction of H. G. Wells by Frank McConnell," Books, DISCOVER 2 (3), (March 1981), p. 112.
7. Monte Davis, "Synopsida: A New Look into the Origins of Mammals by John C. McLoughlin," Books, DISCOVER I (2), (November 1980), pp. 78-85.
8. Mayo Mohs,"The Neck of the Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong by Francis Hitching," Books, DISCOVER 3 (5), (May 1982), pp. 89-90. "[H] notes that Immanuel Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision) gave catastrophism a bad name with his theories about the planet Venus brushing past Earth in historic times. But then Hitching himself sullies the name further by suggesting a Velikovsky-like event that may have ended the dinosaurs' reign: going beyond the established fact that the Earth's magnetic field has reversed, he cites an unfounded theory of British physicist and mathematician Peter Warlow that the planet may have tipped upside down - knocked over like a spinning top by a large asteroid."
Davis' review conveyed a sense of bravado appropriate to the "expert" who tells the rube how it is. Thus, Davis can say: "The effects of all that cometary activity were what parted the Red Sea, dropped manna on the Israelites, and caused the sun to stand still....while Joshua fit de battle o' Gibeon." Like Worlds in Collision, the book at hand "is more of the same: flatly contradictory to what is known of physics, geology, and biology....".
On February 22, a letter to the editor was sent by KRONOS detailing many of Davis' failings as a reviewer. Excerpts of the more telling paragraphs follow:
Many readers sent KRONOS copies of their letters to Discover. A sampling of excerpts from some of these letters follows. Joseph A. Terrano of Inglewood, CA opened his letter with:
Another opening tack was taken by Guenter Koehler of University, AL:
Capitalizing on Davis' mentioning "the geologist Charles Lyell", who replaced catastrophism with his uniformitarian view of nature, William J. Douglas of Rockville, MD observed:
Although Discover printed no letters on the review of Mankind in Amnesia, the publisher's office got around to sending acknowledgment notes on May 19,* when one Kelly Knauer mailed "thank you" notes to several, if not all, of those who commented on Davis' review. While the notes were not identical, they contained several common thoughts. Granting that some good points were raised, she maintained that "we stand by our review" and that "we wish we could have afforded more space to delineate our objections to the book". Observing that Velikovsky "has been a subject of dispute for many years now", she ventured that "maybe we will have a chance in the future to treat the subject more fully". When appropriate, she confided their belief "that Mr. Davis read the book". She usually closed by thanking the writer again "for a strong defense of the book".
After waiting a decent interval, KRONOS replied, in part, to Ms. Knauer on July 15:
No reply was ever received from the publisher's office and, as Henry A. Hoff noted, reviews by Monte Davis have inexplicably stopped appearing in Discover. CLE