VELIKOVSKY STILL COLLIDING

--- E-Skeptic <skeptic-admin@lyris.net> wrote:
From: E-Skeptic <skeptic-admin@lyris.net>
Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2001 10:16:17 -0700
Subject: E-SKEPTIC: VELIKOVSKY STILL COLLIDING
To: "Skeptics Society" <skeptics@lyris.net>
Reply-to: E-Skeptic <SkepticMag@aol.com>

INTRODUCTION: The following essay complements David Morrison's article on the Velikovsky controversy fifty years out in the current issue of Skeptic magazine by describing (a) the reaction of Velikovskians since 1985 to the negative evidence in the Greenland ice cores mentioned by Morrison and (b) the major centers of interest in Velikovsky today:

WORLDS STILL COLLIDING
A Velikovsky Update

     Leroy Ellenberger
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ONE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT THAT THE Velikovsky movement would have ended with the "crucial test" of the Greenland ice cores (Kronos 10:1, 1984), first proposed by R.G.A. Dolby in 1977.1  A visible layer of debris in the ice caused by Velikovsky's planet-juggling catastrophes, especially from the 40 years of darkness at the Exodus, was never found.  In 1986-7, Lynn Rose, a Velikovsky devotee (and then philosophy professor at SUNY-Buffalo) writing in Kronos, suggested Velikovsky's signal is the ice in the so-called "brittle" zones of deep cores, deposited between Venus and Mars episodes, when supposedly Earth's axis had no tilt.  Assuming Velikovsky correct, Rose discounted the fact that the dates of the brittle zones did not match Velikovsky's dates and ignored the concordance of tree rings and ocean sediments with ice cores.  This, of course, makes a mockery of the "interdisciplinary synthesis" heralded by Velikovskians.  In 1994 Charles Ginenthal, writing in The Velikovskian, suggested the bulk of the Greenland ice was deposited almost overnight.  With Kronos defunct, Sean Mewhinney refuted Rose in 1990 with "Ice Cores & Common Sense" in Catastrophism & Ancient History2 and Ginenthal in 1998 with "Minds in Ablation" at (http://www.pibburns.com/smmia.htm), exposing their absurdities in exhaustive detail.  [Another critical examination of Rose's bizarre and deliberately misleading reaction to the record in the Greenland ice cores, "Litmus Tests in the Ice", was prepared in 1992 for publication in Aeon and is available via e-mail by request from this writer.  The reader should understand that (a) in the GRIP and GISP cores from Summit Camp, Greenland, the top-most 84,000 annual layers of ice are visible to the naked eye and (b) in the glaciers of Tibet and Peru the most recent 4,000+ annual dust layers in the ice are also visible to the naked eye; and NO indication of any cataclysmic episode such as described by Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision is apparent by gross confrontation or detected via instrumentation.] This denial of the clear message from the ice cores is an example of "invincible ignorance," reminiscent of the flat earthers' rejection in 1870 of Alfred Russel Wallace's proof of the Earth's curvature, tested on the Old Bedford Canal. [On 26 April 1994, on talk.origins, David Boucher replied cogently to John Godowski's "VELIKOVSKY--an approach to heresy" (a reposting by Walter Alter of Greg O'Rear's 30 July 1993 post), "The objection to Velikovsky has nothing to do with 'HERESY' or resistance to unconventional ideas--it is rather that Velikovskianism is an absurd fantasy, on a par with a belief that the earth is flat."  Interestingly, this 132 message thread can still be browsed at <www.googlegroups.com>.  Like all "true believers", and despite the various pleas for an "objective re-examination of the evidence", doctrinaire Velikovskians, such as Lynn Rose,2a C.J. Ransom, Lewis Greenberg, Irving Wolfe, and Charles Ginenthal, have no respect for the absolute veto power of negative evidence.3] [As recently as July 2007 in an email forum Dave Talbott (see below) insisted that he had no confidence in the Greenland ice core record because, as far as he was concerned, there was no way to know for sure that one or many thousands of annual layers of deposition were not melted/washed away in some climatic warm period or some sort of cataclysm. If Talbott had ever bothered really to read the scientific ice core literature, as opposed to Ginenthal's distortion of it, he would know that the climatic profiles for the Holocene revealed by the several recent ice cores from Greenland are corroborated by the profiles obtained from the ice cores from Antarctica, Tibet, Peru, and elsewhere. This is strong presumptive evidence that no gross melting/washing away of ice layers has occurred in Greenland. This is real "cohairence", but Talbott either ignores it or dismisses it *because* it contradicts his idée fixe.]
  
   Most Velikovskians in America have also spurned the modern catastrophist alternative to Velikovsky's scenario proposed by British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier starting with The Cosmic Serpent (1982).  These "neo-catastrophists" use myth to inform our understanding of the ancient sky, but reject Velikovsky's colliding planets.  For them, humanity's archetypal fear of comets and the origin of sky-combat myths result from Earth's intermittent, energetic interaction during the past 10,000 years with the then young Taurid meteor stream, radiating from near the Pleiades (http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/velidelu.html#ST). Although not accepted by most astronomers, at least this hypothesis does not contradict the laws of physics.  The growing list of scientists and scholars who are favorably disposed towards Clube and Napier's work now called "coherent catastrophism" includes astronomers Mark Bailey and Duncan Steel, physicists Fred Hoyle and Gerrit Verschuur, geographer Richard Huggett, and dendrochronologist Mike Baillie, whose 1999 book Exodus to Arthur makes the case for a cosmic vector associated with several major global climate crises in the past 5000 years.  Regardless, Velikovskians reject it because they (1) have blindly accepted Velikovsky's false premise that planets were the first gods, when planets were only relatively recently associated with deities whose earlier origin had nothing to do with planets, and (2) believe Venus really was once a comet, when it is too massive ever to have had a visible tail as real comets do.
  
   Most surviving Velikovskians now see Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos as seriously flawed, if not completely wrong.  Many instead propose that the real interplanetary catastrophes occurred earlier than Velikovsky thought.  Adopting the "Saturn theory," inspired by an unpublished Velikovsky manuscript alluding to the ancient Sun-Saturn polarity (http://www.catastrophism.com/texts/sun-and-saturn/), they claim that, during the "Golden Age" ruled by the god Saturn/Kronos, Earth was part of a "polar configuration" that orbited the Sun near Earth's present location so that a nearby Saturn loomed continuously over the north pole as a rotating crescent.  Situated between Earth and Saturn were Venus and Mars with Jupiter hidden behind Saturn! [In addition, Mars is claimed to have oscillated annually between Earth and Venus producing the so-called "descent of Mars".] Saturnists believe (1) mythology preserves the record of that alignment and transition to the present Solar System by 2000 B.C.E. and (2) their novel interpretation of ancient myth and sacred symbol (which redefines such terms as "ocean," "sky," and "earth") gives results superior to those of modern science.  Scholars consider this a naive re-imaging of the Greek divine succession myth: Ouranos- Kronos- Zeus- Ares.  The claimed "historical" basis for the "Saturn theory" is greatly exaggerated.
  
   [One might have thought that Talbott's "Saturn Myth" movement would have ended on April 29, 1997, when celestial mechanician Robert W. Bass posted to Talbott's kronia-list "The Samson Solution", the results of his analysis of the planetary orbits in the Solar System, whose Part 3 concluded: "In summary, the mutual relationships presently observed between the Sun, the Earth, its Moon, and Jupiter cannot have varied by more than 0.01 percent during the past 'several million years.' And according to the Titius-Bode empirical 'Law' . . . , Saturn's distal ratio to that of Jupiter has been least unstable if it is about 1.8, as presently observed. . . . The geophysical FACT that the Saturn Hypothesis has been _falsified_ by hard science is as certain a FACT as that Copernicus was correct about the earth moving around the Sun." It seems there is no fact firmly established enough to trump Talbott's confidence in the validity of his necessarily subjective interpretation of ancient myths, religion, and their accompanying symbols.]
  
   Significantly, the ice core evidence also disproves the "polar configuration," not to mention the conservation laws of energy and angular momentum. Having failed to make a prima facie case, the Saturnists shift the burden-of-proof by inviting "scholarly critics" to disprove their model by identifying "a single recurring mythical theme not predicted by the model."  They simply do not believe that their coherent, internally consistent narrative, based solely on mythological exegesis, can be wrong. Their leading theorist remarked in 1987, at a time when he did not appreciate the difference between zenith and pole, "it is not possible that a simply-stated theory could predict all mythical archetypes but be false."  To the contrary, systems of thought can be internally consistent yet bear no resemblance to physical reality.  Coherence is no guarantor of truth.
  
   Interestingly, in 1987 an essay by independent scholar and Sanskrit specialist Roger Ashton, "The Bedrock of Myth", was accepted for publication in the then fledgling "Saturnist" journal Aeon.  Drawing on the contents of the Hindu Rgveda, Ashton showed that the "polar configuration" imagery can be explained without recourse to planets.  Although Aeon subsequently suppressed this paper, it is now being posted on the WWW: (http://www.saturnian.org/bedrock.htm).

   Since conventional physics precludes any such arrangement, Velikovskians have adopted the plasma-theoretic "electric universe" model, propounded in the 1970s by civil engineer Ralph Juergens, as a deus ex machina.  Supposedly the Sun is an electric discharge powered by an influx of galactic electrons.  Based largely on various analogies, this "theory" has no quantitative basis and, despite all the hand waving, is disproved by everything known about the Sun's behavior; see (http://www.tim-thompson.com/electric-sun.html).  Juergens' work is carried on by the "Holoscience" project (http://www.holoscience.com/), organized by Wal Thornhill, a retired computer systems engineer who now bills himself as an "Australian physicist" on the basis of his 1964 B.S. degree.
  
   What of Velikovsky's revision of ancient history? Chronology revisionists exist today in two schools: modest and drastic.  The modest revisionists shorten Egyptian chronology less drastically than Velikovsky's 500 year compression, eliminating only a century or two by various schemata, e.g., (http://www.centuries.co.uk).  The drastic revisionists claim, in essence, that the second millennium B.C.E. is a fiction that duplicates the first millennium; see (http://www.knowledge.co.uk/sis/ancient.htm).
  
   Today, interest in Velikovskian studies resides primarily with four groups: (1) Saturnists are the most visible with the journal Aeon (http://www.aeonjournal.com/) and Kronia Group (http://www.kronia.com) {founded in 1987 by Dave Talbott, author of The Saturn Myth (1980), whose efforts as publisher of Pensee arguably led to the 1974 AAAS Symposium where Carl Sagan and Velikovsky clashed}, which publishes the electronic newsletter Thoth, produces the Mythscape video series, and runs the moderated kroniatalk listserve.  Their alternative-science conferences include invited speakers with bona fide scientific credentials, such as plasma physicist Anthony Peratt and astronomer Halton Arp, who provide a veneer of scholarly respectability, with the Intersect2001 world conference held July 2001 at Laughlin, NV, (http://www.kronia.com/intersect2.html); (2) Charles Ginenthal founded The Velikovskian in 1992 (http://www.knowledge.co.uk/velikovskian/index.htm) and has produced several books and sponsored annual conferences, recently with Cosmos & Chronos, the original Velikovsky discussion group founded in 1965 by geologist H.H. Hess at Princeton University and now headed by C.J. Ransom in Texas; (3) The Society for Interdisciplinary Studies in Great Britain, established in 1974 (http://www.knowledge.co.uk/sis/), publishes Chronology & Catastrophism Review and, while it is nominally interested in catastrophism and ancient chronology and its leadership embraces the work of Clube and Napier, a large portion of the membership has a strong affection for Velikovsky and an indiscriminate interest in the work of other distinctly fringe writers; and (4) The Velikovsky Archive is a web resource (http://www.varchive.org) containing many manuscripts, lectures, correspondence, and the 1972 Canadian television documentary "Velikovsky: The Bonds of the Past."
 
   Velikovsky continues to be revered especially by those who, for a variety of reasons, distrust mainstream science and scholarship, believing they are, in good part, socially constructed consensus mythologies, and believe he was correct on three points: (1) the present order of the Solar System is recent, (2) electromagnetism plays a more important role in the cosmos than generally appreciated, and (3) the chronology of ancient Egypt is seriously flawed.  The resistance of Velikovsky's successors to all the contradictory physical evidence mounting since 1977 indicates they are demonstrably incapable of changing their core belief, namely, recent interplanetary catastrophism.  Velikovskian believers have often subordinated their judgment to that of a charismatic authority figure and, as with other "true believers," secular no less than religious, no amount of evidence is going to change their minds.  As Carol Tavris incisively noted in 1984 regarding Freud, "One of the sturdiest findings in the slushy social sciences is that when such a belief system meets contrary evidence -- when faith meets facts -- the facts are sacrificed."  By contrast, the revolutionary terminal Cretaceous impact 65 million years ago was accepted during this time by most scientists within a decade.


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[Occasionally a new champion for Velikovsky comes on the scene, as science fiction author and electrical engineer James P. Hogan did in 2004 with a chapter in his book Kicking the Sacred Cow. Hogan relies excessively on diehard Velikovskians such as Charles Ginenthal and Lynn Rose while ignoring the incisive criticism of such as Henry Bauer, David Morrison, Sean Mewhinney, and Ellenberger. Also in 2004, a similarly unenlightened book, The Velikovsky Inheritance: An Essay in the History of Ideas, by David Marriott appeared in England, 99% of whose contents is based on pre-1979 material.]


1 [Earlier in 1973 at the seminar "Methodological Aspects of the Velikovsky Controversy" at Univ. of Leeds, England, R.G.A. Dolby noted: "Velikovsky failed to show that his catastrophism was the only reasonable alternative to the current orthodoxies: certainly on a scientist's reading, his theory was far richer in anomaly" (Dolby, "What Can We Usefully Learn from the Velikovsky Affair?" Social Studies of Science 5, 1975, 165-175; revised as "On Schools of Thought" in S.I.S. Review I:3, 1976, 26-30.  Predictably, Dolby's candor did not endear himself to Velikovsky and his supporters.  Lynn Rose has deigned not to engage Dolby as he has engaged other scholarly critics whom he holds in contempt.  Dolby is one of several unsung heroes from the early 1970s whose incisive criticism was ignored by Pensee, and later Kronos, as it fostered the illusion that it was providing complete coverage of discussions of Velikovsky in the media. Other critics whose insights have been ignored include David Leveson, A Sense of the Earth (1971); Wesley Salmon, "Confirmation" in Scientific American, May 1973; letters in Science Forum from D. Walton and R. Steven Turner (June 1974) and J.W. Grove (August 1974); and James Fitton, "Velikovsky Mythistoricus" in Chiron I:1&2 (1974).]

2 [For a copy of Mewhinney's "Ice Cores & Common Sense" (60 pp.), send $5.00 to Leroy Ellenberger, 3929 Utah Street, St. Louis, MO  63116  U.S.A., and also receive "Applied Philosophy of Science 101: The Annotated Rose", a  devastating 53 pt. deconstruction of Lynn Rose, "The Censorship of Velikovsky's Interdisciplinary Synthesis" in Pensee I (1972), reprinted in Velikovsky Reconsidered (1976), prepared by Bauer, Ellenberger, and Mewhinney for distribution at the August 1990 "Reconsidering Velikovsky" Conference in Toronto.]

2a [Lynn Rose has expended much effort since 1972, often with co-author Raymond C. Vaughan, analyzing the observations of Venus preserved on the "Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa" in order to show that the observations do not agree with the present motion of Venus as observed from Earth. In 2002 John P. Britton (Yale, Ph.D. 1966), a student of the history of ancient astronomy and Dibner Institute Fellow at M.I.T. (2003-2004), read Rose's publications on the Venus Tablet and reported to this writer: "Rose is an aggressive crank, entirely unconcerned with the truth, with a substantial capacity for both intellectual dissembling and nasty, ad hominem attacks. Anyone who cannot recognize the nature of his nonsense seems beyond hope to me" (7/18/2002).]
[Earlier, Britton had offered: "...In general I think Gingerich had Rose about right: a resourceful, shyster lawyer with a crooked client, arguing persistently, but disingenuously, from the inconsistencies and imperfections of the historical record (and when useful, citing misunderstandings by early Assyriologists). Basically, if one takes out the puffery, innuendo, pop psychology, and ad hominem attacks, Rose's positive arguments boil down to: a) a misinterpretation of the early Sumerian symbol for a bundle of reeds [representing the door posts on the birthing huts that were sacred to Inanna, still seen today in reed huts in southern Iraq] as a comet; and b) an assertion that the Venus tablets constitute no evidence of events in the 17th, 16th, or 15th centuries B.C., because calculation ought to agree with the preserved text in more instances than it does....I have little to add to what Huber has said with great clarity and credibility re: the Venus tablets and chronological issues in general....However, a few points may be worth noting....4) It is telling that in criticizing Sach's annotated contents entry for LBAT 1560+1561 (BM 34227+42033) -- which was hardly intended as a critical discussion of the text -- Rose incorrectly claims that Sachs attributes 34227 to Section I and that 42033 belongs to the 'Corrigenda Section' (S-5). In fact, Sachs notes (correctly) that 34277 'presents problems', something confirmed and discussed at length in RP [i.e., Reiner & Pingree, The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, Malibu, 1975], and only line 5' of 34277 (not 42033) represents S-5. Sachs does misattribute lines 6'ff of 42033 to omens 14ff of VTA [i.e., Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa] instead of omens 38-42 of Section IV (which begin with a recapitulation of omen 14). Rose is certainly aware of the discussion in RP and apart from the fact that his own description of this text is less accurate than what he castigates Sachs for, his failure to mention Sachs' correct observation of the text's peculiar problems is, once again, essentially dishonest. 5) Finally, I would note that his snide and quite outrageous attack [in Pearlman (ed.), Gould & Velikovsky, 1996] on Sachs' bonafides notwithstanding, Rose does not address Sachs' most serious criticisms of Velikovsky, which apply equally to him, namely their disregard or ignorance of the substantial evidence, textual, linguistic and archaeological by which Mesopotamian chronology is securely extended back to the middle of the 14th century B.C. [See: http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/vsachs.html.] All in all, I find little but stubborn fanaticism and sophistry in Rose's rantings, which are too often presented in dishonest fashion. Since he clearly has no interest beyond advancing his own view, I can't see why anyone bothers with him..." (12/12/2000). Contact the writer for a copy of the full report.]

3 [The disdain of Velikovsky's supporters for "crucial tests" comes honestly since their exemplar emphasized confirmation from supposedly "correct predictions" over falsification from "crucial tests".  When Velikovsky wrote Worlds in Collision, he reasonably believed no trees survived the first encounter with Venus 3500 years ago because the oldest trees then known, the Giant Sequoia, started growing 3300 years ago.  Then the bristlecone pines in California were found to be over 4000 years old.  When I first met Velikovsky, at his invitation, on Palm Sunday 1978, the survival of the bristlecone pines was on my list of questions.  When this question was asked, Velikovsky responded immediately and with the nonchalance of a Borsht Belt comic, "So? They survived."  Obviously to him, their survival did not mean Venus did not nearly collide with Earth "when the heavens rained fire, continents writhed and shattered apart, and most of mankind was destroyed" (from the cover puffery on Pocketbook edition of Worlds in Collision).]

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Leroy Ellenberger is a chemical engineer with graduate degrees in finance and operations research. He was "Executive Secretary & Senior Editor" for the Velikovsky journal Kronos, "devil's advocate" for Aeon, and a one-time confidant to Velikovsky.  His "An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions" appeared in Skeptic, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1995 (http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/velidelu.html) and his "A lesson from Velikovsky," in Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1986 (http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/vlesson.html).  His e-mail address is (c.leroy@rocketmail.com).


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