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Open letter to science editors

 

FORUM

Letters

Scientific Revolution

To The Editor:

The May, 1972, issue of Pensée has just come to my desk, somewhat round about.  Congratulations on your treatment of Velikovsky, as well as his three articles.

In the History of Physics courses which I taught (1962-69), I used Velikovsky as an example of a still all too prevalent practice in scientific circles: to downgrade, to ridicule any idea or person who does not fit into what has been termed "Normal Science."

My personal heresy is to believe that we are now in the midst of a scientific revolution equal to that of 1895-1920.  The dates 1950-1980 will eventually force the radical revision of much of currently accepted physical theory.

In my judgment the three events which led off this new era of change were:

1.  Velikovsky's resynthesis of astronomic events (1950).

2.  Reines and Cowan's experimental demonstration of the finite existence of the neutrino (1953).  A new level of matter!

3. Yang and Lee's prediction of the violation of parity (1956).  Proven 1957.

H. C. Dudley
Professor of Radiation Physics
University of Illinois Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

Better Assessment Needed

To The Editor:

I have no prejudices against Velikovsky or any of his theses, but I cannot, for example, understand how there could have been a "stand still" in the sun's position in the sky, without serious disarrangement of the geographical locations of eclipses that took place prior to this.

However these things turn out, perhaps your journal will stimulate a new look at these matters, and this will be useful.  The controversy is very confusing to a layman, who has no real way to evaluate either the validity of Velikovsky's reasoning, or the validity of that of his critics.  This uncertainty should be resolved if it can be.

Perhaps the AAAS could be interested in holding a symposium on scientific logic using the Velikovsky case as a specific study.  Perhaps the symposium should be narrowed down to a smaller point, in order to try to reach a conclusive position.  For example, one might take the matter of Velikovsky's arguments regarding electrical charges on the sun and in the planetary system.

In any event, I do agree with the editors of the journal that the public deserves a better assessment of the validity of Velikovsky's work than it has received to date.

Walter Orr Roberts, President
University Corp. for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colorado

Professor Roberts is past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Ed.

Chinese Flood

To The Editor:

Dr. Velikovsky's correlation of the "flood that overtopped the mountains" in Chinese legend with the catastrophe which precipitated the Exodus may provide us the securest dating for the rise to eminence of the drainage engineer Yu, his founding of the puzzling Hsia Dynasty (no doubt in Schechwan at the head of the Yangtze), and his compilation of the bafflingly archaic mountain-sea classic, Shan hai jing, from reports of returning expeditionaries.  That would put this compilation at around 1440 B.C. Of its four books on the far east (i.e. America), Book XIII keys to journey two of Book IV, whose journeys are given with compass directions and li measurements, enabling the determination that the Book XIII journey got all the way via central Canada (and Colorado, where a sculpture with an early-Shang or pre-Shang inscription was unearthed but not recognized in 1920) to Central America.  This offers a tantalizing clue as to the possible origin of the confounding Olmec culture, which evidently introduced Mesoamerica to cities and the "Maya" (Hsia or pre-Hsia?) calendar.  Recent discoveries of a thousand-year precedence of a South-China Bronze culture over that of the Yellow Valley, and of a continuity of Southern-initiated village culture into the North, culminating in the literate, Bronze Shang, lend weighty credence to a 15th-century date for the Chinese flood, the South Chinese exploration of western America (taking the Japanese Current after picking it up from the vicinity of Shanghai at the Yangtze mouth), the possibly interrelated founding of the Hsia and the Olmec, and the writing of the Shan haijing.

Cyclone Covey
Professor of History
Wake Forest University

An Engineer's Viewpoint

To The Editor:

Of the two great delights that I find in Velikovsky's work one is the "moving picture" he presents of the possible division of Jupiter and the passage of one of its parts sunward to become first the proto-planet and then the planet Venus.  A great ball of methane, this protoplanet, in his description, mixed with the oxygen of the earth; then an electric arc between the planets caused some of this mixture to become hydrocarbons in the form of oil.  Could this become a practical way of producing oil in the future?

Probably not, because the earth would be devastated in the process.  This moving picture in words, however, may bring to mind other moving pictures whose outcome is more useful.  We are beginning to see the solar system as a machine that can produce useful products.

The other great delight that I find in Velikovsky's work is his attributing human properties to the ancients.  The best example of this was in his article on Stonehenge in your May, 1972, issue, where he writes: ". . . the ancient stonehengers had true perils on their minds when they dragged huge monoliths from afar, when they made holes and filled them, when they watched that the sun should not rise past the foreordained point on the horizon . . ."

While much has been written both for and against Dr. Velikovsky's contributions to science, this letter may be the first on his contribution to engineering.  Engineers are concerned with, among other things, building what has never been built before.  In the first instance above, Velikovsky has made this engineer think about designing a planetary machine.  In the second instance, Velikovsky has reminded him that strong emotions are needed to get great projects going.

Louis Sutro
Draper Laboratory
MIT

Blind Repression

To The Editor:

I was pleased and interested to receive the May, 1972, issue of Pensée dedicated to Velikovsky, and to know your action toward reconsideration of his work will be strongly continued.

I am interested in the debate (and wish Velikovsky to be right and his detractors shamed) more because of the criminal behavior of the scientific community against a new hypothesis than because of specific reasons to believe it is right ...

All particular questions apart, I am worried to see everywhere the same attitude of intolerant conservatism and blind repression against any new idea or movement or struggle for freedom.  Exterior modalities may change from age to age or from country to country, but the establishment acts always like a terrible Mafia.

Bruno de Finetti
Professor of Mathematics
Instituto Matematico Universita Di Roma

Modern Aristotelians

To The Editor:

I am greatly pleased to see that Dr. Velikovsky's works are now being seriously discussed in a new journal, which I hope will finally provide the forum for a dispassionate, objective dialogue.  Although I suppose that our modern aristotelians, imitating the ones who refused to look through Galileo's telescope, will ignore any journal disposed to a fair hearing of Velikovsky's ideas.  Rather, they will eagerly snap up the paltry crumbs of debunking, regardless how unscientific and erroneous.

John W. Livingston
Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies
American University of Beirut Lebanon

Valid Scientific Discussion

To The Editor:

I've always felt that Velikovsky has been getting unfair treatment, in that many published conclusions by reputable (!) astronomers are founded on equally tenuous technical grounds.  Personally, I've never gone for the comet theory of past catastrophes, but I'm willing to admit that ancient histories are full of geological violence.  Some years ago a fellow named Charles Hapgood wrote a series of books which suggest another possible cause for geological upheavals.  Specifically, he suggests that ice accumulating at whichever pole is not oceanic will normally be a little off center, and will produce an increasing force (centrifugal) which will tend to make the earth's entire crust slip a little on the underlying magma.  Since the earth is not exactly spherical, the crust will tear and squeeze a bit here and there as it moves.  The key questions would be just how sure we are that Velikovsky's many historical geologic events were really simultaneous, and how many might have been separated by some years or some thousands of years.  I'm impressed that Hapgood seems to be on to something worthwhile.  Like Velikovsky, his books have been published outside of formal academic channels.

I do find, however, many specific arguments presented in your magazine which do little to further Velikovsky's image in the scientific community.  On page 15, for example, you show some rapid-growing stalactites under the Lincoln Memorial.  Stalactites found under buildings are invariably calcium hydroxide, which is carbonate, and will therefore grow at a high rate.  The hydroxide leaches out of concrete.  I have explored limestone caverns myself since 1958, and have personally measured the amount of real stalagmite which is deposited over a ten-year period.  It is rarely more than a thickness of 0.010 inch.  The "soda straw" stalactites shown in your picture grow somewhat faster under natural conditions, perhaps close to an inch a year, and would not be suitable examples for Asimov's argument either.  Cave formations can be dated by radiocarbon methods because of the way atmospheric CO2 exchanged with carbonate CO2 during solution and deposition.  Typical measurements for the outer inch or two of large cave formations show ages up to thirty thousand years.

Scientists will also be turned off by the unquestioning zeal with which Velikovsky's supporters assemble miscellaneous press reports and the like to confirm his predictions.  While a number of his predictions have been proven correct, I am a little concerned when wild speculations of NASA public relations men are drawn in as "evidence".

In connection with Velikovsky's own article on Venus on page 51, I am familiar with most of the measurements he cites.  Measurements Of CO2 gaseous absorption of Venus (in the infrared) have shown considerable reduction in apparent quantity over the past 40 years.  Since the Venus atmosphere is now almost entirely CO2, this is interpreted as a gradual increase in the altitude of the visible cloud layer.  This can account for the slight drop in the cloud temperatures of Venus during the period of discussion.  On the surface, one might argue from the observations that the temperature is either decreasing or increasing.  If high surface temperatures are to be accounted for by a "greenhouse" action of the clouds, perhaps it is getting hotter, and in turn more surface evaporation would explain that the sudden appearance of Venus in ancient times was actually the time when the planet, with an increasing CO2 content in its atmosphere, first became hot enough to form unbroken clouds, and that the clouds have contributed to additional heating which has increased them, for higher temperatures still.  Then Velikovsky's historical records would actually set the time of a sudden increase in reflectivity, from maybe 10 percent to about 80 percent.

As you may surmise, I am not willing to accept that Velikovsky's interpretations of the historical records are the only ones possible.  Also I have known enough reputable scientists to know that their ideas must be accepted with considerable reservation as well.  I am sure that there is plenty of meat in this controversy for valid, scientifically based discussion and enlightenment, but I don't think we'll soon see it all worked out.

William T. Plummer
Senior Scientist, Polaroid Corporation
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Fortean Thinking

To the Editor:

The May edition was the best review of the "Velikovsky Affair" that I have seen and was a fine tribute to the finest brain of this century.  Congratulations--I hope to read further fine efforts of this type, for the world of science needs a little 'Fortean' thinking from time to time.

Kenneth A. McGrath
Dept. of Bacteriology and Biochemistry
University of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia

Pluto's Mass and Charge

To The Editor:

I would be interested in receiving source-citation info regarding the statement in the May number (p. 23): "Pluto's mass is insufficient to produce the observed perturbations in Neptune's and Uranus' orbits "--in particular insofar as this fact is supposed (via the heading "Record of Success") to provide a redemption of Velikovsky's views.

Dennis Rawlins
Baltimore, Maryland

See the memorandum from Velikovsky to H.H. Hess, September 11, 1963, reprinted in this issue of Pensée.  Ed.

Red Spot

To The Editor:

Your May issue is extremely interesting reading, especially to people like me who have had the books of Dr. Velikovsky as only source of information, and had no idea of what happened after 1955, when Earth in Upheaval was published.  Pensée has brought our knowledge up to date.

However, I think that there is one thing that deserves more attention: the red spot on Jupiter.

In your May issue only the tornado hypothesis is mentioned (p. 23). I propose a reconsideration of the solid-body hypothesis.

How could a solid body be floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter?  My answer is: by electrostatic repulsion.

It should be noted that during the Exodus disaster, electrostatic attraction between Venus and the Earth was comparable to, and probably stronger than gravitation forces.  The proof is that the waters fell back immediately after the discharge.  Now, if Venus was electrically charged, Jupiter must also have been electrically charged, and the force that allowed Venus to leave Jupiter may have been, quite simply, electrostatic repulsion.  If you calculate the voltage Jupiter must have had to make this possible, you arrive at something on the order of 1019 volts.

If Jupiter had this high voltage, it probably has about the same voltage today.  This could explain how a solid body is able to float around in its atmosphere.

No one has as yet been able to explain the red color of the spot.  I suggest that the solid body is surrounded by a red, ferrous dust, which is kept there by magnetic forces.

The Greek used to say that Athena sprang out of the head of Zeus, which is to be interpreted as a description of the fact that Venus was expelled from Jupiter.  Could the red spot mean that Zeus is pregnant again?

H. Ragnar Forshufvud
Backa, Sweden

When Was the Horse Introduced Into Egypt?

To The Editor

In a reading of the Old Testament, one is struck by the phrase in Genesis XLI, 43, "and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had," referring to Joseph after Pharaoh had appointed him second in leadership throughout all Egypt.  Most authorities agree, I believe, with my reference (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by Dr. J. H. Hertz, Soncino Press, London, pg. 157) which has the footnote, "Horses and chariots were introduced into Egypt during the Hyksos period."

Velikovsky in his book, Ages In Chaos, identifies the Hyksos (Shepherd-Kings) with the Amalekites who fought with the Israelites shortly after Moses led them out of Egypt.  The Israelites were traveling eastward escaping from Egypt while the Amalekites were traveling westward towards Egypt.

If the Hyksos introduced the horse and chariot to Egypt, then this people was there during or before the time of Joseph, some 400 years preceding Moses and his meeting with the Amalekites.  On the other hand, if the Hyksos and the Amalekites who fought Moses and his people are the same, the chariot was in common usage at least 400 years before the Hyksos invasion of Egypt.  Which is true?

Martin I. Zwelling
Zanesville, Ohio

There is evidence that both the horse and chariot were in use before the time of the Hyksos.  Walter B. Emery (Kush, Journal of Sudan Antiquities Service, Vol.. 8 [1959] 8), reporting on his excavation of the Middle Kingdom town, Buhen, wrote:

"An important discovery was made during the removal of the New Kingdom additions.  In the recess between the third and fourth bastions of the main wall we found the burial of a horse, the skeleton lying directly on the brick pavement of the Middle Kingdom rampart.  There can be no doubt of its date, for it was covered with a stratified deposit 1.15 in. deep, on which the brickwork of the New Kingdom reconstruction was laid.  Moreover the bones lay about 0.50 in. beneath a layer of cinders and charred wood, remains of the burning of the fortress when it was stormed at a date approximating to 1675 B.C.  Preliminary radiocarbon tests on charcoal from this deposit, carried out at the British Museum Laboratories, have yielded the figure of 3630 ±150 years.  Although the horse was known in Mesopotamia as early as 2000 B.C., there is no evidence of its existence in Egypt until the XVIIIth Dynasty, and it was generally considered to have been introduced into the Nile Valley by the Hyksos invaders.  It is therefore of considerable interest to find remains of this animal, which on sound archaeological evidence can be antedated by probably 200 years."

The chariot is mentioned in the Mari letters in Mesopotamia at the time corresponding to Egypt's Middle Kingdom.

The Editor

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