MY CHALLENGE TO CONVENTIONAL VIEWS IN SCIENCE
Copyright © 1974, 1977 by Immanuel Velikovsky1
"Books written about the solar system before the advent of the space age could as well have been written in Latin or Greek, so dated do they appear to a contemporary reader."
Zdenek Kopal - The Solar System (Oxford University Press, 1973)
In my published books, notwithstanding often repeated allegations, no physical law is ever abrogated or "temporarily suspended"; what I offered in them is primarily a reconstruction of events from the historical past. Thus I did not set out to confront the existing views with a theory or hypothesis and to develop it into a competing system. My work is first a reconstruction, not a theory; it is built upon studying the human testimony as preserved in the heritage of all ancient civilizations − all of them in texts bequeathed beginning with the time man learned to write, tell in various forms the very same narrative that the trained eye of a psychoanalyst could not but recognize as so many variants of the same theme. In hymns, in prayers, in historical texts, in philosophical discourses, in records of astronomical observations, but also in legend and religious myth, the ancients desperately tried to convey to their descendants, ourselves included, the record of events that took place in circumstances that left a strong imprint on the witnesses. There were physical upheavals on a global scale in historical times; the grandiosity of the events inspired awe. From the Far East to the Far West − the Japanese, Chinese and Hindu civilizations; the Iranian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hitto-Chaldean, Israelite and Egyptian records; the Etruscan, Attic and Roman theogonies and philosophies; Scandinavian and Icelandic epics; Mayan, Toltec and Olmec art and legends − all, with no exception, were dominated by the knowledge of events and circumstances that only the most brazen attitude of science could so completely disregard.
The scientific community starts its annals with Newton, paying some homage to Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, unaware that the great ones of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries searched through classical authors of antiquity for their great discoveries. Did not Copernicus strike out the name of Aristarchus of Samos from the introduction to De Revolutionibus before he signed imprimatur on his work? Did not Tycho Brahe find the compromising theory of the Sun revolving around the Earth − but Mercury and Venus circling around the Sun − in Heracleides of Pontus, yet announce it as his own? Did not Galileo read of the equal velocity of heavy and light falling bodies in Lucretius; did not Newton read in Plutarch of the Moon removed from the Earth by fifty-six terrestrial radii and impelled by gravitation to circle around the Earth, the basic postulate of Newton's Principia; and did not Halley read in Pliny about comets returning on their orbits? Then why does modern science disregard the persistent reports of events witnessed and recorded in many languages in the writings of the ancients and also transmitted from generation to generation by communities unable to write, by American Indians, by the people of Lapland, the Voguls of Siberia, the aborigines of tropical Africa, the Tahitians in the South Pacific?
Why is theomachy the central theme of all cosmogonical myths? Should not a thinking man pause and wonder why the ancients in both hemispheres worshipped planetary gods; why temples were erected to them, and some are still standing; why sacrifices, even human sacrifices, were brought to them? Why was Saturn or Cronos or Brahma the supreme deity to be replaced by Jupiter of the Romans, Zeus of the Greeks, Ormuzd of the Iranians, Marduk of the Babylonians, Shiva of the Hindus, Ammon of the Egyptians? Why did the planet Venus - Ishtar, Athene, Kukulcan of the Mayas or Quetzalcohuatl of the Toltecs − become the feared deity, as I saw it omnipresent in Yucatan, where I savored a few days this February, writing this paper? Why is this Morning Star shown in sculpture as a feathered serpent on the grandiose monuments of Uxmal and Chichen Itza, where temples were built, one upon the other, if not to commemorate the ages, the last of which was dominated by Huitzilopochth, Ares of the Greeks, who protected the people of Troy, while Athene clashed with him protecting the Achaean host?
Why was Mars of the Romans chosen as the protector of Rome, the greatest empire after the Empire of Heaven (Livy), while Athene gave her name to the capital of Attica, as Tanis to Tunisia? Why were human sacrifices brought in this country by the Pawnee Indians only a few scores of years ago, every fifty-two years connected with the Venus calendar? Why did the Ancient Assyrians mark on tens of thousands of clay tablets, free from any mythological theme, astronomical observations, but all data from before -687 are in contradiction to known values such as the duration of the daily rotation of the Earth, the time of the vernal equinox − that by the way was repeatedly transferred, as was also the beginning of the year − the ratio of the longest and shortest days of the year, the length of the month and of the year and the motion of the planets? The legends and myths clearly point to an astral origin of all ancient religions.
The problem that occupied the minds of the Classicists,
Mesoamerican scholars, Orientalists, and students of social
anthropology and mythology, was not solved in any one of these
disciplines separately. Like the early memory of a single man, so
the early memory of the human race belongs into the domain of the
student of psychology. Only a philosophically and historically, but
also analytically trained mind can see in the mythological subjects
their true content − a mind that learned in long years of exercise
to understand the dreams and phantasies of his fellow man.
A psychological situation provoked the change in the attitude of
the scholarly world with the beginning of the Victorian age. The
founders of the sciences of geology − Buckland, Sidgwick, and
Murchinson (who gave the classification of formations used today);
of vertebrate paleontology − Cuvier; and of ichthyology − Louis
Agassiz − never doubted that what they observed was the result of
repeated cataclysms in which the entire globe partook. Actually,
Charles Darwin, observing the destruction of fauna in South America,
was convinced that nothing less than the shaking of the entire frame
of the Earth could account for what he saw. But the introduction of
the principle of uniformitarianism by Charles Lyell, a lawyer who
never had field experience, and the acceptance of it on faith by
Charles Darwin, are a psychological phenomenon that I observed again
and again. Exactly those who, like Darwin, witnessed the omnipresent
shambles of an overwhelming fury of devastation on a continental
scale, became the staunchest defenders of the principle of
uniformitarianism, that became not just a law, but a principle that
grew to a statute of faith in the natural sciences, as if the
reasoning that what we do not observe in our time could not have
happened in the past can in any measure claim to be philosophically
or scientifically true.
The pre-1950 astronomy followed the same pseudo-scientific statute of faith, elevated to a fundamental principle, and made believe that the Earth and other planets travel the same paths for the same six billion years, always repeating the same serene circling. Against this violation of the principle of empiricism in science stood my work. In it I rejected the postulate that the ancients, the Greek philosophers Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Democritus and Plato included (O. Neugebauer in The Exact Sciences in Antiquity wonders why Plato is considered anywhere a philosopher of any rank), were childish in their claims of repeated world conflagrations, and that the ancients were almost imbeciles in their beliefs. The ancients, the canard goes, believed in the Earth placed on the back of a tortoise. Thus it is preferred to start science three hundred years ago, and my work was pronounced (by those who did not read it) as an act of destruction of the entire edifice of science erected by the giants of science since Copernicus.
I offered a series of claims that naturally followed from the reconstruction. In science they are usually called predictions, but I prefer to term them advance claims. Thus I claimed that Venus, due to its recent birth and dramatic though short history, must be very hot under the clouds, nearly incandescent, and gives off heat3 − it has not reached thermal balance; that it must have a very massive atmosphere; that the atmosphere consisted largely of hydrocarbons but that if oxygen is present petroleum fires must be burning − thus explaining also the present massive carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere; that sulfur and iron (ferruginous pigment) must be present too; and that if the same catalytic process that -took place on the Earth when it was enveloped by clouds of Venus' origin takes place in Venus' own clouds, they must consist mainly of organic material infused with sulfur and iron molecules. Further, I considered that Venus was disturbed in its rotation.
Venus was found over 750 K. hot − many metals are incandescent at this temperature − while the consensus of opinion among astronomers was 17 C., 3 above the mean annual temperature on Earth. Venus was found rotating slowly and retrogradely. The atmosphere was found very massive, 95 terrestrial pressures near the ground surface, and not reckoning with this possibility, the first Venera probes were crushed. The content of the clouds is still unsolved, but in a paper in the Winter, 1973-74 issue of Pensee, a journal dedicated to the reconsideration of my views, I elucidated that the spectral features in the ultraviolet, near infrared, infrared and deep infrared can be accounted for by organic matter, and so can the volatility and the index of refraction. Nitrogen gas, expected by all specialists to comprise as much as 90% of the atmosphere, was not found. The enigma of the very rich content of carbon dioxide below the clouds is solved if the combustion of hydrocarbons took and still takes place. I expect that the Venus Mariner X probe of this month will bring us nearer to properly evaluating the content of Venus' clouds. But the preliminary report already says that "the manner in which that planet was born and matured differed basically from that of Earth." An editorial in the New York Times, commenting on the bands and streaks first discovered by Mariner X, spoke of an "uncanny similarity" to the bands "in the atmosphere of Jupiter." It added that "it is a problem that poses a formidable challenge to astronomers."
There are problems requiring study that were not discussed in Worlds in Collision because the origin of Venus belongs to the volumes dealing with the earlier catastrophes. How did Venus, in Latin, "the Newcomer," escape from Jupiter four hundred times more massive? − and Lyttleton's work gives some idea; or how could Venus be so much heavier per unit of volume than Jupiter? − either it was expelled from inner parts of the giant planet, or gases like hydrogen entered into chemical compounds of higher molecular weight4. In Worlds in Collision I suggested that electrical discharges in the atmosphere of ammonia and methane in which Jupiter is rich, would produce hydrocarbons of heavy molecular weight − an experiment successfully performed ten years later by A. T. Wilson. Further, I envisaged fusion of elements − like oxygen to sulphur − in interplanetary discharges.
Orbiter and Surveyor probes of the Moon were followed by Apollo probes; and on the historic night of July 21, 1969, when Man stepped on the Moon, I made a series of claims in an article written at the invitation of the New York Times, and spelled out earlier as well in memos to the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Strong magnetic remanence, I claimed, would be discovered in lunar rocks and lavas, though the Moon itself hardly possesses any magnetic field whatsoever. A steep thermal gradient would be found already a few feet under the surface. Thermoluminescence would disclose that the Moon was heated considerably only thousands of years ago. Hydrocarbons, preferably of aromatic structure, would be found in small quantities, but carbides, into which hydrocarbons would transform when heated, in substantial quantities; expressed radioactivity would be detected in lunar soil and rocks; and several more claims. Already following Apollo XI and XII the score was complete. But each of the discoveries − steep thermal gradient, strong remanent magnetism, recent heating of the lunar surface, carbides and traces of aromatic hydrocarbons, and rich radioactivity of the rocks and dust − evoked exclamations of surprise and at best some far fetched, ad hoc hypotheses. Magnetic anomalies, especially where interplanetary bolts fell, and huge enclaves of neon and argon 40 in lunar rocks, were also claimed by me in advance of the findings.5
The Mars probes disclosed, as I had claimed in Worlds in Collision, a dead planet that went through enormous cataclysmic events, not unlike the Moon. The "canali" proved to be not the product of intelligent work, but rifts caused by twisting of strata. Like on the Moon, enormous craters resulted from bubbling, but some formations, especially surrounded with "rays," resulted, in my view, from interplanetary discharges.
When last December  I was invited to address the scientists
of the Langley Space Research Center that prepares the June 1976
Viking probes to Mars, I was told of the program and shown the
module. I found that my 1945 copyrighted view, printed also in
Worlds in Collision, of the possible abundant presence of argon and
neon in the atmosphere of Mars, then a very far-fetched idea, is now
incorporated in the program of the 1976 Viking probes6.
Today, in one of the alternative atmosphere models (the other has
nitrogen richly presented − the same alternative I discussed in
Worlds in Collision), NASA anticipates as much as 33.3% argon in the
atmosphere, but, in my opinion, too little − 666 parts per million
− neon. Actually, in 1969 I saw my assumption indirectly confirmed
when after I expressed my expectation of rich inclusions of argon
and neon in lunar rocks, such enigmatic inclusions were found. I
based my expectation on the realization that in the eighth century
before the present era Mars and the Moon repeatedly came into
I understand that the program will be dominated by an effort to find out whether there is or there was life on Mars; organic materials will be searched for and I count with the possibility that traces of hydrocarbons may be found in the Martian soil, but almost all hydrocarbons must have turned into carbide rocks by heating; cultures of possible micro-organisms will be investigated for changes in color and for the production of gases.
In Worlds in Collision I compiled descriptions from many sources of a widely spread pestilence that accompanied Mars' close approaches; it is not excluded that Mars is richly populated by micro-organisms pathogenic to man. I suggested an inclusion of a microscope in the equipment of Viking and, if possible, of an electron microscope for the study of viruses. I do not discount the probability that the seasonal changes in the color of the Martian surface may be due to seasonal microbial or other low vegetative activity.
It is preferable to postpone the second Viking probe, now planned as identical with the first and following it by one month, in order to rework the program and to include the instruments needed for the test I enumerated.
When earlier, a year and a half ago, in August , I was invited to lecture and consult at Ames Space Research Center (Division of Exobiology), I suggested also that microbial life able to catalyze can possibly be found in Venus' clouds, lower forms of insect life on Jupiter, and primitive plant life on Saturn, besides what I said now of Mars. So much for cosmology and also the evolution of life.
If I was completely at odds with the cosmogony that had the solar system without history since creation, I was also carrying my heresy into a most sacred field, the holy of holies of science − celestial mechanics. I had a chapter on the subject at the end of Worlds in Collision, but I kept those galleys from inclusion in the book and instead I included only one or two paragraphs − and the only italicized words in the book are found in them − namely: "The accepted celestial mechanics, notwithstanding the many calculations that have been carried out to many decimal places, or verified by celestial motions, stands only if the sun, the source of light, warmth, and other radiation produced by fusion and fission of atoms, is as a whole an electrically neutral body, and also if the planets, in their usual orbits, are neutral bodies." I showed how the events I reconstructed could have occurred in the frame of the classical celestial mechanics, but coming from the field of studying the working of the brain − I was the first to claim that electrical disturbances lie at the basis of epileptic seizures − I was greatly surprised to find that astronomy, the queen of sciences, lives still in the pre-Faraday age, not even in the time of kerosene lamps, but of candles and oil. It was, of course, known since Gilbert that the Earth is a magnet, and G. E. Hale discovered that solar spots are magnetic and that the Sun possesses a general magnetic field. But this did not keep Einstein, a few years later, from accounting for the Mercurial precession by a new principle instead of first eliminating the effect of the newly discovered solar magnetic field on Mercury's movement.
I claimed the existence of a magnetosphere above the terrestrial ionosphere − it was discovered by Van Allen in 1958; I claimed that this magnetosphere reaches as far as the lunar orbit - it was discovered by Ness in 1964; I claimed that the interplanetary space is magnetic and the field centers on the Sun and rotates with it7 − it was discovered in 1960 by simultaneous observation of Pioneer V and Explorer X, one travelling around the Sun and the other around the Earth; I claimed that Jupiter sends out radio noises8, and actually offered in writing in June 1954 to Albert Einstein to stake our protracted debate as to whether, besides inertia and gravitation, electromagnetic interactions participate in celestial mechanics: Does or does not Jupiter send out radio noises? − and Einstein wrote his note of disbelief on the margin of my letter. But on the 8th of April, 1955, nine days before his death, I brought to him the news that Jupiter noises were discovered by chance; those who detected them for long weeks disbelieved their find and the Jovian origin of the noises.
Lately I lecture frequently for physical and engineering societies and faculties, and I challenge those in the audience who believe that a magnetic body can move through a magnetic field without being affected by it to lift their hands. Can Jupiter with its immense magnetosphere move in the magnetic field centered on the Sun, if only of a few gammas, without being affected by it? Can the satellites of Jupiter plow through the magnetosphere of the giant planet without being affected by it? On no occasion I saw a hand raised.
Only a few weeks ago, preliminary reports in Science on the Pioneer X December flyby recorded a series of unusual electromagnetic phenomena involving Jupiter and its satellites. At about the same time we read of radio noises for the first time detected from a comet, as Kohoutek was approaching its perihelion. (Incidentally, contrary to the unanimous opinion expressed by astronomical authorities, with which I disagreed, Kohoutek did not develop into the greatest celestial spectacle of the century.) The role of electromagnetic interaction between a comet and the Sun was another subject of my detailed discussion, oral and written, with Einstein.
With the discovery of quasars, magnetic binaries, black holes and colliding galaxies sending out agonized radio signals, the electromagnetic nature of the universe is no more in question. Space is not empty either. I feel like calling René Descartes from the Land of Shades to present his appeal, because as late as 1949, a year before the publication of Worlds in Collision, the verdict was, according to the philosopher Butterfield, that "The clean and comparatively empty Newtonian skies ultimately carried the day against a Cartesian universe packed with matter and agitated with whirlpools, for the existence of which scientific observation provided no evidence."
But ten years later we read: "Gone forever is any earthbound notion of space as a serene thoroughfare . . . . a fantastic amount of cosmic traffic (hot gaseous clouds, deadly rays, bands of electricity) rushes by at high speed, circles, crisscrosses, and collides."
How could I produce this score of correct prognostications?
Professor V. Eshleman of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, obviously
astounded, wrote on September 11, 1970, to a news-writer − "I am
completely mystified as to how Velikovsky reaches his conclusions.
It is almost as though he does it through will power alone...." But
could I, by will power alone, initiate Jupiter's noises?
Yet not a few upheld the scientific method by absolving themselves from reading the book they discuss and occasionally suppress. These days one planetarium astronomer authoritatively pronounced my score of correct predictions as compatible with the law of averages and added that I would have been unfortunate if my score were any less. Seven years earlier the same planetarium astronomer was the mastermind in the refusal of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia to permit the oldest astronomical association of America, the Rittenhouse Society, to convene at their traditional meeting place in the Institute when they invited me to address their members − a story that had many reverberations.
The behavior of the scientific community was and partly still is a psychological phenomenon. The spectacle of the scientific establishment going through all the paces of self degradation has nothing with which to compare in the past, though every time a new leaf in science was turned over there was a minor storm, and it is not without precedent that most authoritative voices in science usually served to discourage the trail blazers − think of Lord Kelvin, unsurpassed authority of later Victorian days, who rejected Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory, demeaned Guglielmo Marconi's radiotelegraphy, and till his death in 1907 proclaimed Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen for a charlatan.
But it is without precedent that the entire scientific community should be aroused to very base actions of compelling, by organized boycott, the publisher of a book checked and rechecked before the printing to discontinue its publication, to destroy the entire stock, and to punish the editor of twenty-five years service by dismissal. This community offered a united front of academic and scientific societies, of faculties, of scientific and semi-scientific press against a solitary figure whose only iniquity was to present views carefully arrived at in more than a decade of work, supplied with all references to enable the reader to check multitudinous sources, with never a jest or a harsh word against those with whom the non-conformist disagreed, with no new terms introduced, in lucid language, though foreign to me, never given to misunderstanding.
Now, after twenty-four years, and more than seventy-two printings in the English language alone, forty of which were in hard cover, my Worlds in Collision, as well as Earth in Upheaval, do not require any revisions, whereas all books on terrestrial and celestial sciences of 1950 need complete rewriting. The opposition and the indecent forms it took are a psychological phenomenon and cannot be explained by a mere desire to protect the vested interests. The forms the suppression assumed are so multiple and sometimes ingenious, but mostly crassly rough and often dishonest, that only having been trained in recognizing various forms of resistance with which analytical patients react when unwelcome truth is about to reveal itself, could I understand the unique spectacle which I observe now for a full generation.
If a sociologist endeavors to divide the guilt between the establishment and the nonconformist, and claims neutrality, then he did not learn to discern objectivity from neutrality. And if a professor of astronomy puts passages in my book which are not there and then makes the class of tuition-paying students roar by attacking those passages, this roar may still sound in his ears when there will be no merriment in it. In these antics, an experienced psychoanalyst recognizes a state of anxiety. "We are shaking in our shoes − but with laughter" wrote an early critic, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin of Harvard. Actually the astronomers of that university must have felt threatened by the book and even an entire generation later, acting as if in peril, a Nobel prize winner wrote to a high school girl to close Worlds in Collision and not to open it again in her lifetime, only to admit three years later to the editor of Pensee that he never himself read the book. Those who act almost suicidally should keep their fingers on the pulse of time.
In the behavior of the scientific establishment the desperate resistance that bedevils human society found its expression. As members of the human race, we are afraid to face our past. But as Santayana wrote, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it and − this time, I am afraid, in a man-made thermonuclear holocaust.
My work today is no longer heretical. Most of it is incorporated in textbooks and it does not matter whether credit is properly assigned. My work is not concluded − I only opened new vistas. The young and the imaginative work in an ever increasing stream. Numerous colleges and universities in this country hold courses or seminars on my work, include my books among the required readings and have theses on my ideas written for graduate degrees. Those who stopped thinking since graduating will claim authority, soon to find that they are left without a following. I may have even caused retardation in the development of science by making some opponents cling to their unacceptable views only because such views may contradict Velikovsky − like sticking to the completely unsupportable hypothesis of greenhouse effect as the cause of Venus' heat, even in violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
This spring, besides this Symposium on my work, two more international symposia dedicated to the subject will take place without my having any part in initiating them. Those who prefer name calling to argument, wit to deliberation, or those who point a triumphant finger at some detail that they misinterpret, yet claim that my entire work ought to collapse, and boast of their own exclusiveness as a caste of specialists − as if I claimed omniscience and infallibility and as if I wrote a sacred book that falls due to some possible error − are not first in their art. I shall quote Giordano Bruno, and one of the organizers of this symposium, Professor Owen Gingerich, Harvard's historian of science, is well familiar with Bruno's description of how his contemporaries used to conduct a dispute:
"With a sneer, a smile, a certain discrete malice, that which they have not succeeded in proving by argument − nor indeed can it be understood by themselves − nevertheless by these tricks of courteous disdain they pretend to-have proven, endeavouring not only to conceal their own patently obvious ignorance but to cast it on to the back of their adversary. For they dispute not in order to find or even to seek Truth, but for victory, and to appear the more learned and strenuous upholders of a contrary opinion. Such persons should be avoided by all who have not a good breastplate of patience."
After all, it really does not matter so much what Velikovsky's role is in the scientific revolution that goes now across all fields from astronomy with emphasis on charges, plasmas and fields, to zoology with its study of violence in man. But this symposium in the frame of the AAAS is, I hope, a retarded recognition that by name-calling instead of testing, by jest instead of reading and meditating, nothing is achieved. None of my critics can erase the magnetosphere, nobody can stop the noises of Jupiter, nobody can cool off Venus, and nobody can change a single sentence in my books.
1. Editor's Note.- This paper was first delivered at the symposium, "Velikovsky's Challenge to Science," held in San Francisco, February 25, 1974, under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The text remains unchanged.
2. See L. M. Greenberg, "Cataclysmic Evolution," KRONOS I:4 (April, 1976), pp. 98-110; F. B. Jueneman, "The Origami of Species," Ibid., pp. 110-113. - The Ed.
3. See R. E. Juergens, "Velikovsky and the Heat of Venus," KRONOS, Ibid., pp. 86-92; "A Youthful Venus," KRONOS I: 3 (Nov., 1975), pp. 85-86. - The Ed.
4. See Eric W. Crew, "Stability of Solid Cores in Gaseous Planets," KRONOS III: I (Aug., 1977), pp. 18-26; R. E. Juergens, "The 'Bulk Chemistries' of Venus and Jupiter," KRONOS II:1 (Aug., 1976), pp. 11-15. − The Ed.
5. *See C. J. Ransom, "The Moon," KRONOS II: I (Aug-, 1976), pp. 28-37. - The Ed.
6. See KRONOS I:3 (Nov., 1975), pp. 88-90; KRONOS II:1 (Aug., 1976), pp. 105-109.− The Ed.
7. See "The Sun's Magnetic Field," KRONOS II:3 (Feb., 1977), pp. 78-80. - The Ed.
8. See I. Velikovsky, "On the Advance Claim of Jupiter's
Radionoises," KRONOS III: I