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On The Lecture Circuit
The rapidly increasing scholarly attention to Velikovsky's work has placed the man himself in strong demand. Finding himself besieged from all sides with requests for interviews, filming sessions, lectures, and written articles, he has largely opted for the continuation of his researches and work on his manuscripts. However, he has accepted a number of engagements holding considerable public interest.
Here are a few of these events, past and future:
At NASA Langley Research Center
Having previously lectured at the NASA Ames Research Center in California (August, 1972), Velikovsky responded to an invitation from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, by visiting that facility on December 10, 1973. The purpose of the visit was outlined by Joseph Heyman, physicist and aerospace technologist at the center*:
*Excerpt from a letter to Dr. Velikovsky from the Langley Colloquium Committee vice1
chairman, inviting Dr. Velikovsky to participate in the Center's on-going lecture series, formed to stimulate communication between research staff and research community.
Velikovsky's afternoon briefing and evening lecture drew larger-than-capacity crowds: the lecture was videotaped and shown two days later to those unable to get in.
Focusing largely on a number of his "advance claims" which have yet to receive testing, Velikovsky remarked of Comet Kohoutek that the crucial issue is not the body's composition, but rather "what forces carry the comet around the sun"--electromagnetic forces playing a role, in his view.
Velikovsky, when briefed on the Viking probes due to make a soft landing on Mars in 1976, urged that the probes should look for strong magnetic remanence; localized magnetic anomalies; microbiological life possibly pathogenic to man; strong, localized radioactivity causing thermal spots; and a steep thermal gradient. He also expects neon and argon to comprise part of the Martian atmosphere.
Immediately prior to the Langley engagement, Velikovsky lectured at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (December 4), University of North Carolina--Charlotte (December 6), and Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina (December 7).
The Chapel Hill invitation was initiated by a group of graduate chemistry students. They wrote Velikovsky, back in November, 1972, explaining their purposes:
"Recently the graduate students of this department have been discussing ways to improve the intellectual atmosphere of this campus. We have observed that morale among science students is low and that interaction between faculty and students has decreased. The causes may be simply that many of us who believe in basic research and its value to civilization now feel that our society does not understand its value and no longer wishes to support it. Some of us think that through the enormous [prestige] science has enjoyed until recently, the scientist has lost track of his role in society and is no longer encouraged by his teachers to develop methods that would enable us to increase "meaningful" interaction with our faculty, and the students we teach. Beyond that we hope to rediscover what scientific inquiry is really all about.
"For chemistry students, who traditionally are not involved in cosmology and the history of civilization, it seemed that research in these areas was unrelated and certainly outside of the domain of the chemist. After reading your books, we found that your ideas add a dynamic dimension to these areas that we did not know existed. Your work has shown us that engineers and scholars working along traditional lines, although they have accomplished much, have certainly not sewn it all up. We are wondering if, as chemists, we can become involved in these areas. We have tried to identify original thinkers whose work and methods we could study and whose ideas are new and not just reworking of well-trodden ground.
"To the end of creating a program of reintellectualization in our department, we have decided to invite noted and controversial thinkers to our campus to share with us their ideas and insight into investigation and research. We would like to invite you to be our first guest...."
At Charlotte Velikovsky addressed the question of "Academic Freedom"--a subject on which he had never before spoken. Noting that church and state are often thought to pose the greatest danger to academic freedom, he contended that grave threats also arise from within the academic community itself. "Science cannot progress without dissent; dissent is basic to progress," he claimed, making his point by reviewing the outstanding scientific controversies of the past. As to the survival of his own work, despite efforts to suppress it: "Worlds in Collision is read more today than five years ago, and five years ago more than ten years ago."
The inability to draw conclusions based on interdisciplinary observations is responsible for many of the "dead ends" in science. Such, in essence, was the underlying message Velikovsky presented last October 15 to the scientists and technical staff at San Jose's IBM Research Center, and again the following day in a semi-public lecture to IBM personnel and visiting academicians and technologists from around the Bay Area.
It isn't often that an industrial giant extends an invitation to Velikovsky to present his views before an open forum, but three IBM employees--Howard Charney, Robert Knight, and Earle Rice-engineered the feat under the auspices of that corporation's Expanding Awareness program. The program is designed to augment the "technical vitality" of IBM personnel.
Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky autographs a copy of Worlds in Collision for Mr. Richard Wardlow, Charlette attorney.
In his lecture at IBM, and again the following day to a full house at the Century 21 theater, Velikovsky stressed the need for observations of electromagnetic interactions between the encroaching Comet Kohoutek and the sun, and also of the interactions between Jupiter and its five closest satellites.
While those attending the second lecture were largely IBM employees, about a quarter of the 1000 people present were academicians from the University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University, and other local schools, as well as scientists and technologists from NASA Ames Research Center and the Lawrence Laboratories at Berkeley and Livermore.
Interestingly, when Los Angeles Times science writer, George Alexander, wrote up the event, apparently the only critics of Velikovsky he could locate were two Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists who insisted on anonymity. Wrote Alexander: ". . . this attitude hardly typifies the free and open discussion of ideas which the scientific community frequently celebrates as a cornerstone of scientific inquiry."
Following the AAAS symposium in San Francisco, Velikovsky will lecture to the National Management Association, Lockheed Bay Area Chapter. Part of a lecture series entitled "Science and the Quality of Life," Velikovsky's presentation is scheduled for 7:15 p.m., March 4, 1974, at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, DeAnza Community College, Cupertino. Admission is one dollar, 50 cents for students.
The aim of the lecture series is to help students "decide what education skills they should acquire so that they can participate in improving the quality of life." Allen Hynek, chairman of the Northwestern University Department of Astronomy and representatives from the Atomic Energy Commission and Pioneer Project Office, NASA Ames Research Center, will be among the other speakers in the series.
Tickets may be obtained at the Foothill and DeAnza Community College Box Offices, or at the National Management Association, Lockheed Bay Area Chapter Business Office, Building 166, Lockheed, Sunnyvale, California 94088. Tel. (408) 742-7505.
Pensée has already noted (Fall, 1973) that the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, will become the first educational institution to grant Velikovsky an honorary degree. The convocation ceremonies, at which Velikovsky will be present, are to be held May 11, 1974. Members of the psychology and physics departments at the university are tentatively organizing a seminar on the theme, "collective amnesia," scheduled for two days prior to the convocation. Velikovsky is also tentatively planning to participate in the seminar.
A local paper, The Herald, carried some lively discussion of Velikovsky's forthcoming visit to the campus. A former United Church minister took the author of Worlds in Collision to task for his interpretation of passages in Exodus. From another side, Velikovsky was defended by Dr. Earl Milton, chairman of the physics department. One of those who first suggested that Velikovsky be given an honorary degree, Milton spoke against dismissing Velikovsky's theories. "I think I know astronomy and I can't prove him wrong."
PENSEE Journal VI