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A Look At the Evidence
Detached evaluation may be the hallmark of true science, but it is difficult to remain dispassionate when contemplating the scientific community's role in "the Velikovsky affair." The libel and character assassination directed at Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky by leading scientists since the publication of his book, Worlds in Collision (1950); the refusal to grant him an opportunity to reply to his critics; the rude failure to acknowledge his correct prediction of "surprising scientific discoveries"; the unwillingness of scientific journals to retract factually erroneous and even farcical criticisms of his views—these black marks cast a disconcerting pall over the achievements of modern science.
But such matters are dealt with only secondarily in this special issue of Pensee. The sordid story of Velikovsky's reception at the hands of scientific illuminati has been related elsewhere. (See American Behavioral Scientist, 1963; or The Velikovsky Affair, ed. de Grazia, available from COSMOS, 1503 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036.) Meanwhile, evidence from diverse fields has mounted yearly, weighting the scales increasingly in Velikovsky's favor. One need not endorse his theories in order to conclude that a full-scale discussion of their validity and implications ought to proceed immediately within all the affected disciplines.
This issue of Pensee represents an effort to stimulate that discussion. We do not wish to argue the question whether Velikovsky's work merits serious scholarly evaluation. Those who think not and who have not altered their stance during the past two decades, will be unlikely to change their minds now. Indeed, many ruled out objective examination of new evidence by announcing long ago that they would never read Velikovsky: they already knew his books to be "lies-yes, lies" (the words of Dean McLaughlin, a Michigan astronomer). Dr. Harold Urey open-mindedly instructed a correspondent: "My advice to you is to shut the book [Worlds in Collision] and never look at it again in your lifetime."
But their positions of honor are steadily being filled by young scientists who are less respectful of entrenched dogma, and whose minds are not blind to the meaning of empirical and historical evidence. Discussion of this evidence proceeds even now, as the following articles demonstrate. And in succeeding issues Pensee will encourage continuing critical analysis of all questions raised by Velikovsky's work.
Pensee is not a technical journal. It ventures into matters scientific and historical quite timidly, and only to help fill the void created by the refusal of specialized journals to acknowledge the vitally important questions raised by Velikovsky's scholarship. We do not attempt here to present "both sides of the issue." It is Velikovsky's views which have been systematically excluded from the scientific media, not those of his critics. We hope to receive and print responses to the articles contained here, but that discussion must proceed in a manner allowing both sides to be heard.
The scope of Velikovsky's work as an interdisciplinary scholar easily overwhelms a reader. (We do not here pretend to offer more than a fragmentary look at that work. Velikovsky's opus magnum, Ages in Chaos, is not even discussed in this month's issue.) His historical reconstructions offer a meaningful explanation for such diverse and "unrelated" phenomena as the instant freezing and entombment of mammoths in Siberia; the presence of coal and tropical corals inside the Arctic Circle; the remanent magnetism in lunar rocks; the Chaldeans' awareness that Venus passes through phases (like the moon); the repeated reversal of Earth's magnetic fields; and Egyptian sundials and water clocks which make no sense according to the present order of the solar system.
New theories often, if not usually, arise in order to explain puzzling facts which refuse to adapt themselves to existing explanations. This very stubbornness, wherever it occurs, testifies to the inadequacy—possibly the fundamental inadequacy—of accepted theory. That Velikovsky manages to account for anomalies in so many widely separated fields is powerful evidence for the truth of his ideas and requires, we think, a plausible explanation from his critics.
We trust that that explanation—and not an emotional outburst—is forthcoming.
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Pensee wishes to acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of Lewis and Clark College (Portland, Oregon) in preparing this special issue.
We are grateful to Dr. Velikovsky for his willingness to assist in this project. His technical knowledge and editorial advice proved in all cases to be sound.
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