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.
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.
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."
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
Rawlins will show how Paul Kurtz lives up to the rigorous standards of
science and ethical journalism.
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."
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.
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.
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." 
Mark Washburn destroyed any view that the debate scientists who attended the symposium
used even a modicum of "scientific consideration" in their approach to
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.
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......
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
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."
How could Sagan "get away with it" for so long? The following material may help explain the
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
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
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
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.
Here, then, are the
evaluations and the review. The first is from Professor Lynn E. Rose:
To Whom It May
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.
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
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.
Lynn E. Rose
Professor Roger W.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
William H. Stiebing,
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
"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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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...."
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."
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.
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 . 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
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.
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."
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."
Martin Gardner, Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York,
1957), p. 50.
Bernard I. Cohen, letter in response to Otto Nathan, executor of Einstein's
literary estate, in Scientific American (September, 1955): 14-16.
Gardner, op. cit., p. 7.
George O. Abell, editorial tribute in Mercury (July-August, 1984): 109.
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.
Ibid., p. IX.
Ibid., pp. X-XI.
Kendrick Frazier, "The Distortions Continue," The Skeptical Inquirer
(Fall 1980): 32-38
James Randi, "Science and the Chimera," Science and the Paranormal,
ed.,George O. Abell and Barry Singer, paperback (New York, 1983), p.
Ibid., p. 213.
Tom Van Flandern, Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets
(Berkeley, California, 1991), p. 356.
Ivan King as cited in "On the Need for 'Serious Scientific Meetings,'"
editorial PENSEE 4: 2 (Spring 1974): 25.
Mark Washburn, Mars at Last (New York, 1977), pp. 95-96.
Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain (New York, 1979), p. 126.
Immanuel Velikovsky (A), Earth in Upheaval (New York, 1955), p. 220.
Immanuel Velikovsky (B), "13," Worlds in Collision (New York, 1950),
Charles Ginenthal, Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky (New York,
1990), back cover.
William H. Stiebing, Jr., letter to Charles Ginenthal (June 30, 1993), New
Science, a commentary citing Russell Seitz (January 16, 1987): 271-273.
Sally Stephens, letter to Charles Ginenthal (October 1, 1993), third
refusal letter from the education coordinator and assistant editor
at Mercury, San Francisco, California.
Herbert Wendt, In Search of Adam, trans. James Cleugh (Boston,
Massachusetts, 1956), pp. 264-265.
Sagan, op. cit., p. 84.
Emile Zola, "J'accuse," L'Aurore (Paris, France, 1898).