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Open letter to science editors

 

 VELIKOVSKIAN                                                                                                       Vol. II, No. 1

Scientists, Journalists and Editors as Suppressors
Charles Ginenthal

The Skeptical Inquirer has been in the forefront of debunking nearly everything contrary to the Scientific Establishment's views of what science and pseudoscience are.  Immanuel Velikovsky's work is one of the targets.  On at least four occasions, the journal has presented highly negative articles against Velikovsky's theory.  Years ago, I tried to have a critique published, in this journal, about Carl Sagan's evaluation of Velikovsky's theory.  Sagan's evaluation had originally been published in The Humanist.  My submitted analysis, which was not published, though very brief, showed that Sagan's statements against Velikovsky's work were thoroughly contradicted by other statements he had made.

Evidence showing contradictions inherent in the assertions made by a highly respected member of the scientific community is important information that any honest scientist or journalist would want to publish.  One of the fundamental tenets of ethical journalism is that evidence should not be suppressed.  Journalists are expected to present all sides in a controversy and not act as partisans.  To do is a clear indication of bias and journalistic hypocrisy.  Alice Miller, the editor and publisher of the Immanuel Velikovsky Bibliography, was also unable to have material published in The Skeptical Inquirer.  Her research presented evidence contradicting another paper which attacked Velikovsky's hypothesis.  Thus, I became aware of the nature of the bias controlling that particular journal: The editors will publish short criticisms, as long as these do not present evidence that shows, as my own piece on Sagan did, that their contributors misrepresent their own data against Velikovsky and his theory.  I strongly suspect that The Skeptical Inquirer deals with all controversial research which challenges Establishment Science in the same way.

Years ago, Martin Gardner, a contributor to The Skeptical Inquirer, a highly visible promoter of Establishment Science and a vociferous critic of Velikovsky, wrote:

We can distinguish between the scientific value of Einstein's work and the contributions of a Velikovsky.  We can grant that Einstein may be wrong, and there is a faint (very faint) possibility that Velikovsky may be right, but the extremes of the continuum are so great that we are justified in labeling one a scientist and the other a pseudoscientist. [1]

It is fascinating to recall that Albert Einstein felt quite differently about Velikovsky's work and said so.  As presented by Bernard I. Cohen, Einstein stated that "there is no objective test of whether notions that contravene scientific ideas and theories are the work of a crank or a genius, nor whether such ideas will forever seem crazy or perhaps become the orthodoxy of the future." [2]

Does Gardner understand the nature of science better than Albert Einstein?

Gardner also told us that [i]n the last analysis, the best means of combating the spread of pseudoscience is an enlightened public, able to distinguish the work of a reputable investigator from the work of the incompetent and self-deluded.  This is not as hard to do as one might think.  Of course, there always will be borderline cases hard to classify, but the fact that black shades into white through many shades of gray does not mean that the distinction between black and white is difficult.[3]

Gardner claimed to clearly distinguish true science from pseudoscience.  However, he also believed that it is the job of the scientist to enlighten the public concerning the truth.  In "sTARBABY," by Dennis Rawlins (the third article in this issue), however, we will learn of The Skeptical Inquirer affair and just what Martin Gardner did when he became aware of a fact that contradicted his position on astrology.

The late George O. Abell, an astronomer, is another figure in this affair.  He has also been critical of Velikovsky's work and has written that:

[p]eople seem, somehow, to be aware of what astronomy can offer to the human perspective.  What they are not aware of, though, is the method of science--of the exacting procedure and rigid rules of the scientific method.  It is here that a gap in communications exists between scientists and nonscientists.

That communication gap becomes especially obvious when we note that many people thirsty for knowledge about the new frontiers have turned to all manner of unreliable sources for their information.  We scientists, in my opinion, have an obligation to the public to increase our efforts in presenting an honest view of science.[4]

In Rawlins' article, we will see how well Abell followed the scientific method's exacting procedure and rigid rules and how he complied with his scientific and ethical obligation to the public to present an honest view of science.

Paul Kurtz, as the publisher of The Skeptical Inquirer, is responsible for approving the printing of negative articles which appear in it regarding Velikovsky's work.  Regarding the evaluation of unorthodox claims, he has stated:

In 1976, I was instrumental in founding the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, whose explicit purpose is the evaluation of paranormal claims.  We believe that scientists should not simply reject unorthodox claims out of hand, however fanciful they may appear, but, rather, should submit them to careful investigation.[5]

Kurtz has also stated that "scientists cannot commit the fallacy of a priori negativism--that is, they cannot reject new areas of knowledge antecedent to inquiry.... The concepts and hypotheses introduced must be meaningful and must lend themselves to some verifiable tests."[6]

He has called for the controlled use of objective methods of inquiry, the criteria of logic and the use of experimental tests to verify hypotheses.  In the last analysis, it is evidence that can decide the truth of one claim rather than another, and this evidence must be available to scrutiny by independent observers and capable of being replicated under test conditions in any laboratory in the world.  Regrettably, most of what goes under the name of the paranormal is pseudoscience, since it does not satisfy these rigorous standards.[7]

In "sTARBABY," Rawlins will show how Paul Kurtz lives up to the rigorous standards of science and ethical journalism.

Kendrick Frazier, editor of The Skeptical Inquirer, wrote "The Distortions Continue," an article about Velikovsky and his supporters, in the Fall 1980 issue.  He claims that "Velikovsky, The Controversy Continues," an advertisement put out by Doubleday & Company, Inc., distorts facts.  He describes ad contents as "lies," "a number of misstatements" and "reprehensible."[8]  As an editor, it is Frazier's duty to be sure that he, himself, does not engage in distortion, lies, or misstatements.  Rawlins' article will show how Frazier behaved with respect to his solemn responsibility.

James Randi, also part of The Skeptical Inquirer affair, has called for the practice of rational science in the past, admitting that "[m]istakes in science should be quite acceptable as part of the learning process; ignoring mistakes to save the feelings and reputations of the persons involved simply cannot be condoned.  But it is. [9]

Randi has stated that "the system [of rational science] that we depend upon for our present existence and our future safety should be ready to declare itself in error when the occasion demands without embarrassment and free of guilt.  We learn from errors." [10]

In "sTARBABY," we will see how much James Randi is willing to declare his own error when the occasion demands and whether or not he admits mistakes instead of trying to salvage his feelings and reputation on a matter that should neither be accepted nor condoned.

"sTARBABY," by Dennis Rawlins, deals with astrology.  Though I, personally, do not believe in astrology, Rawlins' discussion and revelations exemplify what Antoinette Mann Paterson considered to be part of the neurotic nature of present-day science and describes well what really lies behind the debunking philosophy and bias of The Skeptical Inquirer, its editors, journalists and scientists.

 VELIKOVSKIAN                                                                                                       Vol. II, No. 2

Scientists, Journalists and Editors as Suppressors (Part II)

The general public does not know that the Velikovsky Affair has not ended.  For example, in his recent book, Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets, Tom Van Flandern stated that

[i]n 1950, [Immanuel] Velikovsky published a sensational book in which he hypothesized (based on new translations of ancient texts) that biblical events could be explained by events in the heavens ... The astronomers were outraged at the publicity given to Velikovsky's book, which became a best seller for a time.  Led by [Harlow] Shapley at Harvard, they threatened a worldwide boycott of the publisher, Macmillan Press, and of all its textbooks.  The publisher was eventually forced to sell its publication rights.

It was 24 years before astronomer Carl Sagan helped organize a serious scientific consideration of Velikovsky's hypotheses at an [American Association for the Advancement of Science (A. A. A. S.)] symposium in San Francisco, titled "Scientists Confront Velikovsky," because of continued high interest by the public in the matter.  Since the symposium, interest in Velikovsky's ideas has virtually disappeared.[11] (Emphasis added.)

What Van Flandern omitted was that the A. A. A. S. symposium was neither a "serious" symposium nor did it present anything resembling a "scientific consideration" of Velikovsky's hypotheses.  Ivan King, an organizer and moderator of the debate, stated that the conference was not a "serious" debate about Velikovsky's views: "None of us in the scientific community believes that a debate about Velikovsky's views ... would be remotely justified at a serious scientific meeting." [12] (Emphasis added.)

Mark Washburn destroyed any view that the debate scientists who attended the symposium used even a modicum of "scientific consideration" in their approach to Velikovsky's hypotheses:

There was enough truth in Velikovsky's charges [that the scientific establishment was a closed club] to make the scientific establishment uncomfortable.  It was a difficult situation.  If they debated Velikovsky's theories in the same [scientific] manner as they would the theories of a reputable scientist, they would be lending legitimacy to a man who had perverted the principles of science .... But if they refused to debate Velikovsky it would seem that they were afraid of him....

Indeed, the scientists actually seemed to relish the opportunity to dispose of Velikovsky once and for all.[13]

Thus, it is obvious that the 1974 A. A. A. S. symposium on Velikovsky's theories was neither a "serious" nor a "scientific consideration" of Velikovsky's work.  A chapter of Van Flandern's book is titled "The Unscientific Method" and every aspect of the unscientific method outlined by Van Flandern was employed at the symposium to discredit Velikovsky and his work.  For example, Van Flandern condemns the unscientific method of discrediting through guilt by association.  In this respect, Carl Sagan used the guilt-by-association tactic by claiming that "Velikovsky attempts to rescue not only religion but also astrology......[14]  But Sagan omitted that Velikovsky rejected religious analysis when Velikovsky wrote that "Darwin's theory represented progress as compared with the teaching of the Church .... Darwin's theory of slow evolution through natural selection or the survival of the fittest was an advance."[15]  As for astrology, Velikovsky considered "the number 13, and specially the [13th] day, as unlucky and inauspicious," both a "superstition" and a 'belief of many superstitious persons."[16]

How could Sagan "get away with it" for so long?  The following material may help explain the process:

In 1990, I privately published Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, which exposed the wholesale misrepresentations that Sagan had presented to the public to criticize Immanuel Velikovsky's hypothesis.  After selling enough of my stock to break even for my costs, I was able to distribute many copies to libraries and to a few outlets.  About two years ago, I decided to place an advertisement for my book in Mercury, a journal published in California.  Mercury has a circulation of 50,000 and a reasonable rate for a full page advertisement.  Thus, I sent in the following text for publication:

Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky
by
Charles Ginenthal

Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky is an analysis of a scientific debate respecting the theory of Immanuel Velikovsky held at a symposium under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (A. A. A. S.) in San Francisco in 1974.  One of the participants in the debate, Professor Carl Sagan of Cornell University, raised, there and elsewhere, a host of questions and points of severe criticism of Velikovsky's thesis.  Charles Ginenthal, the author of this work, has gone into all aspects of this criticism and has exhaustively outlined the evidence with data from the scientific literature.  The analysis is devastating; the definitive response to the Sagan-Velikovsky debacle.  It debunks, in lucid terms, point by point, each and every issue raised.  It is sometimes humorous and often scathingly critical.  No one who reads this material will have the slightest doubt about the nature of this further chapter in the "Velikovsky Affair." Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky will be hailed by some and decried by others.  It reopens this episode of the Velikovsky debate with a thunderous roar.  It is must reading for anyone interested in how scientific debates of revolutionary concepts are actually conducted, how evidence is handled, how ethics are trampled.  It is a book for the historical record. 343 pages, plus table of contents, footnotes, and index.[17]

Along with a cover letter and a check, I sent this to Mercury with the naive expectation that a scientific journal would be happy not only to obtain revenue for a full-page ad but would also be unbiased and eager to accept an ad for a book that presented the other side in the debate.  In response, I received a reply, dated May 27, 1992, from a Ms. Sally Stephens, Education Coordinator and Assistant Editor at Mercury, which stated:

Dear Mr. Ginenthal,

I am returning your check... and the text for the ad you sent us for Mercury magazine.  Unfortunately, our Society has a policy of only accepting ads for material produced through the normal process of refereed publishing.  Thus, we are not able to accept your ad.  Thank you for thinking of us.

Sincerely,

Sally Stephens

What Ms. Stephens informed me was that the only criteria for rejecting my ad was simply that the book had not gone through the process of refereed publishing.  This did not disturb me since the book had been sent to several individuals for comments, analysis and evaluation.  I sent the following letter to Ms. Stephens on June 1, 1992:

Dear Ms. Stephens:

Thank you for your reply to my letter for an ad to be placed in Mercury.  You say that you only accept ads for material that has been through the normal peer or refereed process.  This process has, indeed, been passed by my book.

The book was refereed and passed for publication by the following individuals, who have permitted me to use their names in this regard:

1. Professor Lynn E. Rose, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at SUNY--Buffalo.  Professor Rose has authored a book on Aristotle and is an editorial consultant for the Journal of the History of Philosophy.  His evaluation is enclosed.

2. Roger W. Wescott, Ph.D., former Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics and Director of the Behavioral Science Program, Drew University.  Professor Wescott is the author of four books and coauthor of over 30 other books.  Professor Wescott now resides in... Connecticut.

3. C. J. Ransom, Ph.D..  Dr. Ransom is a physicist who worked at General Dynamics and is the author of The Age of Velikovsky.  He has published papers in Science, PENSEE, and Cosmos & Chronos.  His evaluation is enclosed.

4. Martin Sieff is a staff writer for the Washington Times and an Orientalist.  He has written a long review praising the work.  His evaluation is also enclosed.

I have further reviews and evaluations of the book from others of equal repute, also in the field of astronomy.  Therefore, I am returning the ad for my book having met your requirement for refereed work and look forward to hearing from you as to when you will run the ad.  It is very important that both sides of the Velikovsky issue be heard.  You have recently run an ad for a book which was highly critical of Velikovsky and, in all fairness, the other side deserves to be publicly aired.

Yours Sincerely,
Charles Ginenthal

Here, then, are the evaluations and the review.  The first is from Professor Lynn E. Rose:

To Whom It May Concern,

This letter is in support of the publication of Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, by Charles Ginenthal.

It has been a pleasure to read this much-needed book.  In 1974, a panel of critics at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science attacked the work of Immanuel Velikovsky, author of Worlds in Collision.  The most vociferous of these was Carl Sagan, whose long critique of Velikovsky has been reprinted at least six times that I know of, and is continually cited as evidence that Velikovsky's work need not be taken seriously.  Indeed, Sagan began generating hostile publicity about Velikovsky even before the conference took place.

Many people, scientists and general public alike, have assumed that Sagan's remarks were scientifically competent, dispassionate and fair.  They are, in fact, none of that.  His arguments are often made up of his own fantasies and are directed at a book that he seems never to have carefully read, if indeed he read it at all.

What has long been needed is a detailed exposure of Sagan's errors and dissimulations.  This is what Charles Ginenthal has now accomplished.  His book carefully examines Sagan's arguments, point by point, and shows that they are without merit.  Even more than that, he shows that Sagan deliberately misrepresents both the nature of Velikovsky's own theories and the nature of the facts that might be relevant to the assessment of those theories.  To put it bluntly, Sagan makes up whatever arguments he pleases, apparently in full confidence that no one will ever check up on him.  Fortunately, that confidence has been misplaced.

The structure of Ginenthal's book is quite simple: He traces Sagan's arguments, one by one, from the introductory remarks right through to the appendices.  Along the way, he deals with Sagan's notorious 'Ten Point" which Sagan's admirers like to describe as the 'Ten Plagues," sent down upon Velikovsky.  Ginenthal's style and reasoning are clear and his facts are straight.  His tone is moderate and his approach is fair.  Ginenthal has actually done all of the research that Sagan only pretended to have done.

I believe that this book is of major importance, and that it will not only attract the attention of the supporters and opponents of Immanuel Velikovsky and the supporters and opponents of Carl Sagan, but that it will also be of great interest to astronomers, historians, psychologists, theologians, geologists, biologists and physicists, as well as to the general public.

Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, by Charles Ginenthal, is a book of solid integrity and quality, and will receive wide attention.  I recommend its publication most strongly and without reservation.

Sincerely,
Lynn E. Rose
Professor of Philosophy

Professor Roger W. Westcott states:

I commend Charles Ginenthal's study of Sagan and Velikovsky which I find accurate, detailed and persuasive.  In this book, the glib and slipshod nature of Carl Sagan's critiques is repeatedly and tellingly exposed.

On rare occasions, Ginenthal's partisanship leads him to be intemperate or sarcastic in his refutations of Sagan.  And there are a number of misspellings and mispunctuations in the volume that require correction.  But these flaws, it seems to me, are subject to relatively easy editorial elimination.

To be sure, Mr. Ginenthal and I hold a similar view of the development of the Earth and the solar system, which inclines me to share his reactions to Sagan's pronouncements.  Yet I am also an experienced editor and discussion leader, required by my work to take a critical approach even of those writings with which I am in basic agreement.

I hope that this book...   will be accepted for publication by a commercial firm or a university press.

Professor Roger W. Wescott

The following evaluation by C. J. Ransom states:

The book Cad Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky by Charles Ginenthal is an essential reference for anyone interested in the concepts described by Dr. Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision, Earth in Upheaval, Ages in Chaos and others.  Ginenthal's book contains an overview of Velikovsky's basic ideas, some of the original reasoning and information from the recent scientific literature.

Although a person unfamiliar with Velikovsky's concepts can obtain some insight into the ideas, the book intentionally is not a detailed text about those concepts.  The book is intended as a guide to the comments that Sagan made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in 1974 and a detailed rebuttal to Sagan's comments.  It fulfills this mission very well.

            The organization of the book is necessarily chaotic because it generally follows Sagan's presentation.  At the A. A. A. S. symposium, Sagan presented ten "problems" with Velikovsky's ideas.  Actually, if you include all the subcategories, Sagan presented many more than ten problems.  However, if he referred to [201 or [301 problems, it would detract from likening these to the ten plagues of Egypt.  These problems (plagues) were supposed to destroy Velikovsky's thesis.  Ginenthal demonstrates that the only thing destroyed was any appearance that Sagan attempted honest research.

In 1950, for reasons detailed in his books, Velikovsky suggested (1) that the planets in the solar system were not formed in their present orbits, (2) that not all geological features on the Earth were formed over long periods by processes internal to the Earth, and (3) that Egyptian chronology before 687 B.C. was not accurate as described by conventional historians.

These were considered heresy at that time, but now numerous researchers agree that all three are worth consideration, and many scientists consider the first two as accepted.  However, most researchers not only do not credit Velikovsky with having done meaningful work, but they chant the socially acceptable anti-Velikovsky phrases.

Many scientists and non-scientists who oppose Velikovsky's suggestions about the recent history of the solar system have not actually investigated his ideas or the information supporting these ideas.  They believe [that] they do not need to do this investigation because "authorities" claim to have done so and have pronounced Velikovsky's work fraudulent or wrong.  Sagan is probably the most often quoted of these "authorities." These believers do not know that Sagan also did not perform an adequate investigation.  To cover this fact, he distorted Velikovsky's views, attacked the distortions and incompetently attacked the points not distorted.

Even if they do not directly quote Sagan, the most used arguments come from his comments, which are often recycled distortions that were made by earlier "authorities." These irrelevant or incorrect arguments are repeated so often that they become "evidence" because they are familiar.  That these arguments are not supportable is aptly demonstrated by Ginenthal.

After reading Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, if people are not convinced that Velikovsky's work is worthy of further consideration, they will be convinced that Sagan is more of an entertainer than an honest, competent researcher.

C. J. Ransom

Martin Sieff's review of the book follows:

These are sad days for Immanuel Velikovsky, the Father of Modern Catastrophism.  In Britain, rival groups who once claimed to be his supporters now proffer new models to revise ancient history that abandon his entire reconstruction, including Ages in Chaos, Vol. 1. In Britain, Europe and Canada, former leading supporters now reject Worlds in Collision for the Cosmic Serpent scenario of Bill Napier and Victor Clube.

Yet, in terms of published factual research, there is no reason why this should be so.  Emmet Sweeney of Derry City, Ireland, has produced the finest defense and advance on Velikovsky's entire ancient history reconstruction published, offering the first convincing rebuttal, so far, to the revisionists who rejected Velikovsky's separation of the 18th and 19th dynasties of Egypt.  The Magellan probe's first year of mapping and monitoring Venus provides unprecedented detail on a volcanic, seismically active Hell-world whose conditions were predicted in advance by Velikovsky alone in uncannily precise detail.

The British revisionists in ancient history and the followers of Napier-Clube who have nothing to say about Venus are blind to all this. [Not] only do the revisionists in both ancient history and science reject Velikovsky's work for inferior copies, but the copies themselves are unacknowledged rip-offs of the Founding Father's work.

Gunnar Heinsohn, of Bremen, Germany, has pointed out the unwillingness of British researchers in history to acknowledge Velikovsky's primacy, even though they themselves had previously edited journals dealing with his work.  And D. C. Stowe, writing in KRONOS magazine, rightly condemns Napier and Clube for offering up "warmed over parts of Velikovsky's evidence," without, of course, acknowledging him, while presenting what is only a watered-down version of his theories.  When reading such travesties and the uncritical applause given to them, one feels impelled to call "Enough!"  Charles Ginenthal clearly felt so too, and that impulse has motivated him to produce this invaluable book.

The decline of Velikovsky's scientific reputation really set in after Carl Sagan's so-called "Ten Plagues" attack on his work, delivered at the 1974 American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in San Francisco.  Many of Sagan's inaccurate and mendacious arguments were later pointed out in a series of articles in KRONOS magazine.  But KRONOS had a very limited circulation and among the public at large the impression remained, fueled by uncritical reports in Time magazine and mainstream scientific journals, that Sagan had humiliated or demolished Velikovsky's case.

Ginenthal, here, sets the scientific record straight.  He systematically examines each of Sagan's scathing critiques in detail and dismisses them with a vast body of evidence mainly gathered from the mainstream scientific literature, including other work by Sagan himself.

Very regrettably, it is unlikely that this book will find a large readership.  The popular market, at the moment, for catastrophist literature is extremely limited and Velikovsky's own books are virtually all unavailable in print in North America.  But, nevertheless, this is a book for the ages in more ways than one.

First, it is incomparably the finest and most comprehensive work yet published from the catastrophist side of the scientific debate on Velikovsky's work.  Without belittling KRONOS' invaluable publications of the 1970s, Ginenthal's book is comprehensive, authoritative and thorough in ways that could not be written in a magazine format.

Second, it quotes extensively from and proves an invaluable guide to mainstream scientific literature of the past decade.  Not since C. J. Ransom's Age of Velikovsky, 16 years ago, has a new scientific work sympathetic to Velikovsky gathered together so much valuable new research supporting his theories.  For this alone, it is invaluable reading for anyone interested in the field.

The book is beautifully written, masterfully organized and impeccably researched.  The footnotes alone provide a guide to most of the relevant, published literature on the debate over the past 20 years.

It is also a treasure trove of important data crucial for the debate and published over the past decade.  Thus, one learns that Sagan himself, along with other scientists, is now convinced that immense reserves of hydrocarbons--some of them very complex organic molecules, can be found in the atmosphere of Jupiter, just as Velikovsky's theories predicted, but Napier and Clube's [did] not.

Ginenthal also quotes from [Sir Fred] Hoyle's great book, The Intelligent Universe, published in 1983, that spectroscopic evidence supports Velikovsky's contention that bacterial life forms exist in the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter.

And he cites Thomas Gold's writing in the British weekly, New Scientist, in 1986, in support of Velikovsky's idea that oil came from space rather than sedimentary deposits of biological origin.  According to Gold,

 "Attempts to find oil fields rich in biological debris have generally failed" and the viewpoint that hydrocarbons could not arise without biology became quite untenable when astronomers discovered that hydrocarbons are the most common form of carbon in the solar system.  Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune contain enormous amounts of methane and other hydrocarbons in their atmospheres.

Even Halley's Comet, Gold admits, has a core with "a surface as 'black as pitch' most probably because it is of pitch or a similar hydrocarbon."

Ginenthal also does a fine job in praising the excellent KRONOS articles on the probable existence of hydrocarbons and sulfuric acid in the atmosphere of Venus, noting that the spectroscopic evidence of sulfuric acid in the clouds of Venus would require the planet's atmosphere to be less than 10,000 years old.  The observed existence of carbon dioxide in the Venusian atmosphere demands the same conclusion, he notes.

After a long "Dark Age" when far, far too much time and limited print space in the Velikovskian debate was expended on a plethora of fictional chronological models, on attempts to steal Velikovsky's ideas and present them in watered down form acceptable to the scholarly establishment, or with endless fantasizing... making unprovable interpretations of ancient mythologies to fit their fantasies, it is a pleasure to read again a work that makes catastrophism an exciting voyage of intellectual discovery.

Ginenthal's work is certainly not "fundamentalist," but it does go back to fundamentals.  It revives and celebrates the best traditions of American catastrophist science published in PENSEE, KRONOS and AEON over the past 20 years and draws heavily on the work of such outstanding revisionist-scientists as C. J. Ransom and the late, great Ralph Juergens.  It is an essential work for anyone interested in Velikovsky and the catastrophist debate and will be read and reread decades from now.

This splendid book sets the record straight on a debate of pivotal importance in the history of science.  It also gathers an overwhelming store of valuable data supporting Velikovsky's theories.

The ideas that proved so fruitful and convincing 20 years ago after the first great age of space exploration are here shown to be more relevant than ever in explaining the awesome solar system that the Voyager and Magellan probes have revealed to us.  After too many years of doubt, confusion and apologies, it is time for Velikovsky's supporters to go back on the attack, and this book will lead the charge.

Martin Sieff

To my chagrin the editors at Mercury suddenly changed their rules about what books do qualify as acceptable for ads in their magazine.  Ms. Stephens' reply on June 12, 1992, stated,

Dear Mr. Ginenthal,

Thank you for your letter of June 1, 1992.  Unfortunately, I must again return your check... for an ad in Mercury.  Our policy is to accept ads for books published only by established publishing companies.  I did not see Ivy Press Books listed in the copy of the LMP (Literary Market Place) that we have in our office.  When I previously mentioned books that had gone through normal peer review, I meant a process of anonymous scientific reviewers chosen by the publisher and editors, not by the author.  Thank you, however, for your interest.

Sincerely,
Sally Stephens

The editors at Mercury changed the rules.

When they received my ad the first time and rejected it, they made no mention whatsoever that my book had to be published by a publishing house listed in the Literary Market Place.  They also did not inform me that only anonymous scientific reviewers were required in order to have an ad for a book placed in their journal.  Thus, I felt rather upset by this turn of events.  However, I did see an ad advertised in Mercury for a book with the same title as another book which was critical of Velikovsky's work.  The book they advertised had nothing to do with Velikovsky.  I learned from the editor that the book that was highly critical of Velikovsky's work had not been peer-reviewed.

About a year later, while working on an article on William Stiebing, Jr.'s criticism of Velikovsky's theory, it occurred to me that Mercury had been promoting his book quite directly.  I do not believe that this promotion of Stiebing's book required that his publisher make a payment to Mercury; however, this is only conjecture.   Nevertheless, Mercury had gone forth with a very positive promotion of Stiebing's work on Velikovsky.  Therefore, I wanted to learn whether or not Stiebing's book had been peer-reviewed and wrote to him twice requesting this information.

Dr. Stiebing finally replied on June 30, 1993:

Dear Mr. Ginenthal:

The simple answer to your questions about Ancient Astronauts, Cosmic Collisions and Other Popular Theories About Man's Past is that the publisher did not send it out for peer review before publishing it.  However, I had several of my colleagues in history and anthropology read and comment on individual chapters before I sent the final version of the manuscript to Prometheus Books.

I debated with myself about whether or not to bother answering you question, since I think you are wasting your time and mine pursuing this issue.  First of all, it is unlikely that any criticism of Velikovsky's work or of any other pseudoscientific theory will be subjected to peer review. (Emphasis added.)  Peer review is for serious ground-breaking work by peers, that is, other specialists in the same field.  One of the common features of pseudoscience is that it is produced by people who are not specialists in the fields that they choose to write about.  So such work is usually ignored by specialists in the academic disciplines.  My book on the views of Velikovsky... and other popular theorists was not intended for other historians and archeologists, but for the general public.  It was intended to show the public why such theories are labeled pseudoscience or cult-archeology and why they have no support from specialists in ancient history, archeology or anthropology.  As such, it would not usually be subjected to peer review.

Secondly, my book was a work of history and archeology, not science, so it has no relevance to your attempt to show that peer review is not the sine qua non of scientific work.  Many works in the social sciences and humanities are published without peer review, specially if they are meant for a general audience.

On the other hand, serious ground-breaking science is seldom, if ever, first published in book form.  Thus, you seem to be laboring under a mistaken understanding of the "lack of peer review" criticism leveled at the supposedly scientific work of Velikovsky and his supporters.  Scientists normally publish the results of their research in scholarly journals aimed at other specialists.  These articles do get peer review before publication.  Then, after publication, they are subjected to review and comments of the specialist readers of the journals.  Scientific theories usually appear in book form (generally text books) only after they have received wide support from specialists.  Insofar as Velikovsky's work is essentially history (which is what he claimed it was in Ages in Chaos), it is not subject to the criticism that it failed to be peer-reviewed before being published. (However, it is still subject to the criticism that Velikovsky was writing out of his field about subjects such as Assyriology, archeology, biblical criticism, mythology and linguistics, none of which he was qualified to evaluate properly.) On the other hand, insofar as Velikovsky's work is claimed to be science, then the criticism applies.  Peer review is the sine qua non of good scientific research!  It also plays an important role in testing new work in the humanities and the social sciences, though it is not as pervasive in these fields as in the sciences.

Sincerely,
William H. Stiebing, Jr.
Professor of History

I was much taken aback by Stiebing's letter, with which I disagree on several points.  However, it became obvious from the first paragraph that the editors at Mercury had been using administrative means to suppress the ad for my book.  On August 30, 1993, I again wrote to Mercury:

Dear Ms. Stephens:

You [had] told me about a year ago that your journal does not publish ads for books that are not peer-reviewed by anonymous reviewers.  However, this is not the case.  Your journal has, in fact, promoted a book that is highly negative to Immanuel Velikovsky's work that was never peer-reviewed.  That book, Ancient Astronauts, Cosmic Collisions and Other Popular Theories About Man's Past, by William H. Stiebing, Jr., (Prometheus Books; Buffalo, New York, 1984) was promoted in your journal.

In the May/June, 1985, issue of Mercury, page 92, your journal promotes Stiebing's book as "[a] responsible book by a historian examining some of the "fiction science" of mankind's past including the works of [Immanuel] Velikovsky." (Emphasis added.)

In the September/ October, 1990, issue of Mercury, page 164, your journal put forth the following statement about Velikovsky's work:

VELIKOVSKY AND WORLDS IN COLLISION

"The late psychiatrist, [Immanuel] Velikovsky, attracted a large following with his wacky theories concerning catastrophic events during the history of our solar system.  For example, he proposed that Venus was a comet, expelled by Jupiter (!) which then passed the Earth in such a way that our planet temporarily stopped rotating.  His ideas are not only in disagreement with the most elementary laws of science but are clearly contradicted by a wide variety of evidence.  While new evidence has shown that catastrophic events may well play an important role in the shaping of the planets, the real events are very different from what Velikovsky imagined."

On the same page, you promote several anti-Velikovskian books and articles, as well as The Velikovsky Affair, and include Stiebing's book with the caption "A nice overview."

Stiebing's book mainly uses Carl Sagan's work in Scientists Confront Velikovsky, Broca's Brain and that which Sagan published in The Humanist.   Each of these anti-Velikovskian books and articles by Sagan you also promote on the same page as that which contains the Stiebing endorsement by Mercury.

Several of the attacks upon Velikovsky's work that Stiebing took from Carl Sagan are succinctly answered, with citations from the scientific literature, in my book, Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky.  Thus, in the name of journalistic ethics, it is only just that you also allow an ad from my book to appear in your journal, Mercury, that has so openly promoted books and articles highly negative to Velikovsky.  If, as you say, your journal is a "scientific journal," then you will not try to suppress the ad for a book that presented scientific evidence that shows that Sagan misrepresented Velikovsky's work again and again.  If you and your editor colleagues at Mercury are truly practicing ethical journalism, then you will not suppress the ad for Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky.  Journalists are expected to present all sides in a controversy and not act as partisans for one side by suppressing evidence from one side... Mercury has promoted several books and articles that attack Velikovsky's work and now has the opportunity to allow the other side to put forth an ad for a book that shows that Carl Sagan's books and articles on Velikovsky contain wholesale misrepresentation.

I urge you, in the name of scientific and journalistic ethics, to allow the ad for my book to be presented in Mercury and not to use administrative means to suppress the ad.  Of course, I have no power to force you to do what you do not want to do except to appeal to your own values as honorable scientists and journalists.

Enclosed is the letter by William H. Stiebing, Jr., which states that his book was never peer-reviewed.  In fact, he used the same peer review method that I employed for my book on Sagan.

Yours truly,
Charles Ginenthal

P. S.--Enclosed is my ad and a check to cover publication of only one ad.  C. G.

I received a reply on October 1, 1993, from Mercury:

Dear Mr. Ginenthal,

I am returning, once again, your ... checks ... and the ad copy that you submitted to Mercury.  I apologize for the delay in responding to your first letter.  The editorial board has decided not to accept your ad for publication in the magazine.  This decision is final. (Emphasis added.)  Peer-reviewed books, although an important issue, is not the only one that governs whether we accept ads.  Among other things, we look at whether a book is published by a mainstream publisher, as evidenced by the publisher being listed in the Literary Market Place.  We also consider the reputation, within the astronomical community, of the author(s).  We consider whether the book is about astronomy and science or not.  We tend not to publish ads that promote books or anything else that is not about astronomy or science in general.  Because we are a mainstream scientific journal, we do not publish ads for books promoting pseudo-science as defined by the mainstream scientific community, for example, about creationism or UFOS.  Thank you for your interest, but, again, the decision of the editorial board is final.

Sincerely,
Sally Stephens
Editor, Mercury

Let us examine the statements in this letter to see how well they conform with journalistic ethics and with rationality.  After the editor at Mercury says that she will only publish ads for peer-reviewed books, I present evidence that my book was, indeed, peer-reviewed.  She then informs me that only anonymous, peer-reviewed books are acceptable and that, since my book has not been anonymously peer-reviewed, Mercury cannot publish my ad.  But when I show Mercury that the journal had promoted a book that has never been peer-reviewed--in complete contradiction to all said in this regard--the editor still states that peer review, for scientific material (books), is an important issue--which is sheer hypocrisy.  Peer review is not such an important issue, as Stiebing has stated.  He made it abundantly clear that books aimed at "the general public [such as his own] ... intended to show the public why ... theories are labeled pseudoscience or cult-archeology and why they have no support from specialists in ancient history, archeology or anthropology ... would not usually be subjected be peer review."[8]8 (Emphasis added.)

If Stiebing is correct, and there is no reason to believe he has prevaricated in any way, then not only was his criticism of Velikovsky's work not peer-reviewed but neither were the criticisms of Velikovsky's theory that were promoted by Mercury's editors.  As such, the journalistic, ethical distinction between what the editors of Mercury say and what they do is astounding.  They must know that they arc employing a journalistic double standard.  For Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky they demand anonymous peer review, but will promote Stiebing's book without heeding their own "standard."

This is the same "damned if you do, damned if you don't have your book peer-reviewed" attitude that Carl Sagan relied upon when he spoke about the value of the peer review process in his criticism of Velikovsky.  But even Sagan does not follow the advise he so freely gives to others.  An issue of Science contains a commentary which cites Russell Seitz's criticism of Sagan's peer review follow-up and of his non-substantive use of references.  According to the article,

Seitz notes that Sagan published the nuclear winter thesis in Parade magazine a month before it appeared in Science.  He writes: "The peer review process at Parade presumably consists in the contributing editor conversing with the writer, perhaps while shaving--Sagan is both."  Anyone who wants to verify the data on which the conclusions [regarding nuclear winter] were based, according to Seitz, has to set off on a "paper chase." [Sagan's conclusions] rest on data published [in the] Science article, [which states that] " details may be found in (15)."  Reference 15 states in full: "R.  P. Turco, O. B. Toon, T. P. Ackerman, J. B. Pollack, C. Sagan in preparation." It refers to a paper that has never been published in a peer-reviewed (or any other) journal. [George] Rathjens [professor of political science at M. I. T.] grumbles about the hard-to-get data.  The entire thesis [for nuclear winter], he says, is "a house of cards built on reference 15." [9]  Thus, it seems that Sagan and the editor-journalists at Mercury know how to set up a paper chase with double-talk about peer review.

The logic underlying such behavior leaves little doubt about what these journalists and editors are really up to.  The concept that they raise about whether or not a book is published by a mainstream publisher is really a journalist red herring.  Why would anyone believe that while they have absolutely no standards with respect to peer review they really have any standards with regard to mainstream publishers.

But even if my book were published by a mainstream publishing company, the Mercury staff member fully admits that my ad would never appear in that journal because it promotes a book with a supposedly "pseudoscientific" focus, "as defined by the mainstream scientific community...." [18]

Having defined Velikovsky's thesis as pseudoscience, Mercury staff would never allow an ad that defends it against attacks in their journal.  The entire claim about mainstream publishing companies is, I believe, just an administrative method to suppress the ad.

Ms. Stephens also says that Mercury tends "not to publish ads that promote books or anything else that is not about astronomy or science in general." [19] Again, here is evidence of a journalistic double standard with regard to Stiebing's book.  In the letter that I enclosed with my ad to Mercury, Stiebing states clearly, "MY BOOK WAS A WORK OF HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY, NOT SCIENCE... " (Capitalization and emphasis added.)  But the Mercury editors promoted his unscientific book.  Stiebing's book is not a book of science!  My book, after being reviewed by the United States government's Library of Congress, was given a copyright designation of QB601, which means that my book should be placed in libraries in the astronomy section.

I must point out that when books and articles that attack Velikovsky's work are promoted in scientific journals, fundamental journalistic ethics requires balance and a nonpartisan objectivity that excludes suppression of evidence found in books and articles which directly answer these attacks with scientific evidence.  What the Mercury staff is doing is suppressing material that offers legitimate, scientifically-based counterevidence which explains, clarifies, supports and defends Velikovsky and his work.

The Velikovsky Affair is a pro-Velikovsky book published in 1966 which Mercury has promoted because it is about 30 years old, is extremely well known, and does not address any of the attacks by the ten books and articles against Velikovsky's work that Mercury promoted in the September-October, 1990, issue, on page 146.  To promote ten anti-Velikovsky books published after 1966 but not promote even one book that addresses these ten attacks is both journalistic partisanship and bias, neither of which reflect ethical journalism.

The ten-to-one odds are really ten-to-zero odds when not even one ad for a book is allowed that responds to these attacks.

The behavior of Mercury's journalists and editors reminds me of a story about a black man in the south before the 1950s civil rights movement.  He was taken to a boxing ring by a group of white racists, who put him in the ring with ten white men who used boxing gloves to fight.  To be sure about the outcome, the racists tied the black man's hands behind his back.  When the fight began, he was pommeled very badly.  Nevertheless, he saw a way he could defend himself When some of his opponents came near to inflict a blow, the man kicked them in the groin and these opponents collapsed onto the boxing ring floor.  He then quickly repeated this maneuver with his other opponents and it looked like he would be able to win the fight.  At this point, the boxers began to shout that he was not playing fairly, or by their unique rules, by using his feet instead of his hands.  "Fight fair!" they shouted.  This directive applies to the journalists and editors at Mercury who promote damaging attacks on Velikovsky's work but tie the hands of a defender of Velikovsky's work so that a proper defense is invalidated and slanted reporting is allowed.

Let us compare and contrast the behavior of the Mercury staff with that of John Stuart Mill.  When Herbert Spencer applied Darwinian principles to politics in his First Principles, he was attacked for presenting a biological explanation of politics, the nature of society, morals and aesthetics, thus removing spiritual values from consideration.  Because of the fierceness of these attacks, it became impossible for Spencer to find financial resources to defend and go on with his work.  He was then obliged to declare himself in dire circumstances, saying that he could not go on battling the antagonistic forces against which he strove to either defend his theory or continue publishing more volumes which applied biology to psychology, sociology and ethics.

According to Herbert Wendt,

At this juncture, he received a letter from his fiercest opponent, the positivist philosopher John Stuart Mill.  These two men had a cat-and-dog [relationship with] each other.  Mill had been a prodigy in his childhood, mastering Greek at the age of three, the whole of elementary mathematics at ten, and all the systems of philosophy at [14].  He was a socialist, belonged to the radical wing of the House of Commons and enjoyed such prestige in that assembly that the great statesman, [William Ewart] Gladstone, felt it to be a "moral and intellectual degradation of parliament" if he were ever absent from one of its sessions.  Spencer, on the other hand, did not think much of socialism and believed that a socialist age would be the greatest disaster that mankind had ever experienced and would inevitably end in a military despotism of the sternest type.  Mill was pious.  He belonged to the puritanical Manichaeian sect.  Spencer, however, was an agnostic, taking the view that one could know nothing about God and must, therefore, exclude him from philosophical consideration.  In Mills' opinion, the process of nature consisted of a conflict between two opposed principles.  Spencer thought [that] there was only one principle-that of evolution.  Mill rejected Darwin; Spencer supported him.  Accordingly, when Mill sent a letter to his antithesis, Spencer, one might assume that it was very unlikely to contain anything agreeable.

Actually, it stated that he, John Stuart Mill, while of course setting no value what[so]ever upon Spencer's philosophy of evolution, nevertheless deeply regretted the decision to abandon the work as planned.  As he was in comfortable circumstances himself, he would be prepared to see to the financing of the project for the future, not in order to do Mr. Spencer a personal favor but to promote an object of general importance.  Mill reinforced his generous proposal with a promise to obtain subscriptions from American millionaires with whom he was on friendly terms.  He put a sum of [$7,000] at his adversary's disposal then and there.[20]

Although John Stuart Mill was decidedly against the ideas that Spencer was advocating, he did not attempt to suppress them.  He was an ethical proponent of evidence and wanted all the evidence to be presented so that the public could give a completely honest determination of the value of the data.  But the journalists, editors and scientists at Mercury have decided to censor the evidence favorable to Velikovsky's work while promoting misrepresentations, made by Carl Sagan and others, which are hurtful to Velikovsky's theory.  This, I suggest is totalitarian science.  Totalitarian science is science which operates not from a full and open discussion of evidence but from censorship, suppression and public relations advertising techniques to promote its own biased viewpoint.

Carl Sagan, Mercury's proclaimed champion, advised the following back in 1979: "My own view is that, no matter how unorthodox the reasoning process or how unpalatable the conclusions, there is no excuse for any attempt to suppress new ideas --least of all by scientists." [23]

Mercury's journalists and editors, their contributing scientists and others who follow the above cited practices should all take to heart not only what Carl Sagan said but also the following words by Emile Zola, a true journalistic champion: "Truth is on the march and nothing can stop it." [24]

References

[1]   Martin Gardner, Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York, 1957), p. 50.

[2]   Bernard I. Cohen, letter in response to Otto Nathan, executor of Einstein's literary estate, in Scientific American (September, 1955): 14-16.

[3]   Gardner, op. cit., p. 7.

[4]   George O. Abell, editorial tribute in Mercury (July-August, 1984): 109.

[5]   Paul Kurtz, "Believing the Unbelievable: The Scientific Response," foreword to George O. Abell and Barry Singer, ed., Science and the Paranormal, paperback (New York, 1983), pp.  VIII-IX.

[6]   Ibid., p. IX.

[7]   Ibid., pp. X-XI.

[8]   Kendrick Frazier, "The Distortions Continue," The Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1980): 32-38

[9]   James Randi, "Science and the Chimera," Science and the Paranormal, ed.,George O. Abell and Barry Singer, paperback (New York, 1983), p. 212.

[10]   Ibid., p. 213.

[11]  Tom Van Flandern, Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets (Berkeley, California, 1991), p. 356.

[12]  Ivan King as cited in "On the Need for 'Serious Scientific Meetings,'" editorial PENSEE 4: 2 (Spring 1974): 25.

[13]  Mark Washburn, Mars at Last (New York, 1977), pp. 95-96.

[14]  Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain (New York, 1979), p. 126.

[15]  Immanuel Velikovsky (A), Earth in Upheaval (New York, 1955), p. 220.

[16]  Immanuel Velikovsky (B), "13," Worlds in Collision (New York, 1950), p. 66.

[17]  Charles Ginenthal, Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky (New York, 1990), back cover.

[18]  William H. Stiebing, Jr., letter to Charles Ginenthal (June 30, 1993), New York.

[19]  Science, a commentary citing Russell Seitz (January 16, 1987): 271-273.

[20]  Sally Stephens, letter to Charles Ginenthal (October 1, 1993), third refusal letter from the education coordinator and assistant editor at Mercury, San Francisco, California.

[21]  Ibid.

[22]  Herbert Wendt, In Search of Adam, trans.  James Cleugh (Boston, Massachusetts, 1956), pp. 264-265.

[23]  Sagan, op. cit., p. 84.

[24]  Emile Zola, "J'accuse," L'Aurore (Paris, France, 1898).

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