Subject: Neugebauer v. Velikovsky
This message is written for the benefit of those readers who are interested in the *truth* behind the Velikovsky Affair.
The Velikovsky Affair continues to generate indignation among supporters, as indicated by the recent book Gould and Velikovsky, edited by Pearlman. Unfortunately, many of the issues that continue to fuel such indignation, verging on rage, are demonstrably phoney. I discussed this problem in the concluding section "Denouement" of my memoir "Of Lessons Legacies and Litmus Tests: A Velikovsky Potpourri" written for Aeon in 1991; but it did not appear there because Part 2 was cancelled in June 1993 after Part 1 appeared in Aeon 3:1, 1992. However, "Denouement" was posted to talk.origins in June 1994 as an appendix at the end of:
The main point in "Denouement" is that the
Velikovsky Affair, as presented in the Velikovsky literature, is
mostly a myth created by Velikovsky via subtle misrepresentations
and crucial omissions in order to present as favorable a case for
himself as he could. For example, it is quite disingenuous to
beat up on the professors who denounced a book they had not read
when in fact they had read "Cosmos without
Gravitation," the pamphlet that was supposed to justify the
physics implied in Worlds in Collision. But Stargazers does not
deal with "Cosmos without Gravitation" and Velikovsky's
sending it to prominent scientists and libraries in 1947.
Once Stargazers and Gravediggers came out in 1983, it was clear that the material in the earlier book The Velikovsky Affair dealing with the reception of Worlds in Collision was based solely on Velikovsky's version of the events. There was no attempt made to verify Velikovsky's version or to obtain others' accounts of events, as DeGrazia confirmed to me in Princeton in May 1983. As it turned out, I was the only person who ever interviewed George Brett, the president of Macmillan in 1950, about his dealings with Velikovsky. One result of this lack of corroboration is the "myth" of the non-existent science listing promulgated by Juergens in Kronos, which I debunked in Kronos IX:2, 1984, in "Worlds in Collision in Macmillan's Catalogs". Macmillan *had* listed Velikovsky's book under the heading "science" in a catalog they sent to college professors. Juergens and Rose stopped looking when they got a copy of the listing under "general" in the main corporate catalog.
Although the matter of Neugebauer v. Velikovsky in ISIS in 1950 was discussed briefly in another section of Part 2, it did not figure in "Denouement". The real issue regarding Neugebauer's review in ISIS is *not* that Neugebauer unjustly accused Velikovsky of changing three degrees to thirty-three degrees in Kugler's text (as Velikovsky has convinced the epigoni), but that Velikovsky's translation of Kugler's German changes the meaning of Kugler's sentence. Because the number was *irrelevant* to the point Neugebauer was making, he allowed the typographical error to stand when it came to his attention, probably in order to keep to the printing schedule, which is a priority largely lost in this era of computerized publishing.
But this false point is too good for doctrinaire Velikovskians to be bothered to correct in the interest of accuracy and honest scholarship. The point is obvious to anyone who actually reads what Neugebauer wrote in ISIS, instead of relying on Velikovsky's erroneous and self-serving version in his memoir Stargazers. Furthermore, and most relevant, is the fact that in August 1990 at Zysman's "Reconsidering Velikovsky" Conference in Toronto, both Charles Ginenthal and Irving Wolfe (along with all the other attendees) were given a blue folder containing ca. 20 readings including, as a separate item, an unpublished paper explaining this phoney issue. Yet, despite this, Wolfe's two contributions to Gould and Velikovsky feature the Neugebauer in ISIS and ignore this paper:
"...That is to say, Velikovsky _is accused of lying_. The specific charge is that Velikovsky altered his source by substituting 33 [degrees] 14' for 3
[degrees] 14' in a quotation from Franz Xavier[sic] Kugler" (G&V, p. 13).
"A third error by Bauer occurs in his description of a controversy about Velikovsky's use of a source which he himself had translated. '...when Velikovsky gave an incorrect translation from a German source, thereby actually and drastically changing the meaning, he gave a misstated fact' [fn to Bauer's Beyond Velikovsky, p. 198].
The reference is to a charge laid against Velikovsky by science historian Otto Neugebauer in the important journal _Isis_ that Velikovsky had deliberately altered a number in his source to strengthen his argument" (G&V, p. 329).
Here is what D. R. Moorcroft, Prof. of Physics, The univ. of
Western Ontario, has to say about this issue in his "Taking
a Leaf from Velikovsky and Examining it" (written in 1972,
but he was unable to find a journal to publish it):
"The next paragraph [of WiC] was misquoted by Neugebauer in his _Isis_ review, and led to a great controversy:
'The distances traveled by the moon on the Chaldean ecliptic from one new moon to the next are, according to Tablet No. 272, on the average 3^o14' too great.' (Kugler, p. 90)
This means that during a lunar month the moon moved a greater distance in relation to the fixed stars than present observation shows. In Neugebauer's review, the figure 3^o 14' appeared as 33^o 14', and the subsequent storm over this unretracted error obscured the fact that Neugebauer's criticism was correct. On reading Kugler, it is quite plain that Velikovsky has mistranslated Kugler. It is not 'the distance travelled by the moon on the Chaldean ecliptic from one new moon to the next' that are too great by 3^o 14', but rather the celestial longitudes of the new moon as measured in the Chaldean ecliptic were too great by 3^o 14', compared with the movable ecliptic, which was used by a Greek contemporary, Hipparchus.* That this is precisely what Kugler means
*[Regarding this translation, L.E. Rose told Velikovsky in a Dec. 9, 1974 memo critiqueing V's planned reply to Neugebauer, 'I do not have access to Kugler, but if the German quotation by Neugebauer is accurate, and is the passage that you meant to be translating, it does seem that your translation is so very free that it is more of an interpretation than a translation, and that it need not have been put in quotation marks at all' (CLE90). In other words, Rose did not have the cajones to tell Velikovsky his translation was just plainly wrong (CLE980.]
is clear from a table on page 102, which shows the longitudes for successive new moons for three years compared with similar values from Hipparchus. They are all the same, except that the Babylonian values are in every case greater by 3^o 14'. This is not an important discrepancy, and as explained by Kugler, it is related to the way in which the Babylonians handled the precession of the equinoxes. Even if Velikovsky's interpretation were correct, his argument is still defective, because Tablet No. 272 used the 'new' System I, rather than System II.
"The next paragraph [of WiC] reads:
In Tablet No. 32, the movement of the sun along the zodiac is precisely calculated in degrees, and the station of the sun at the beginning of each lunar month is determined exactly; but it is 'a perplexing presentation of the ununiform movement of the sun. The question is insistent: Why is it that the Babylonians formulated the nonuniformity of the solar movement precisely in this way?' (Kugler, p. 67).
Actually, the quotation from p. 67 of Kugler refers, not to Tablet No. 32, but to _section_ 32 of his book, two pages earlier, and concerns Tablet No. 93. There is nothing mysterious about this quotation. The question is a rhetorical one, and Kugler goes on to answer it in the next three pages. It refers to the basis of System II, the step function curve shown in Figure 1 [not shown here. CLE]. The answer which Kugler gives to his question is that the two constant values chosen are close to the maximum and minimum rates of motion, and are in the simple ratio of 15/16; the relative durations of the two values are chosen to make the mean value correct...."
This is in distinct contrast to the slant Velikovsky and the
Epigoni have erroneously put on the Neugebauer matter. Let this
be an example of the lesson Velikovsky constantly hammered home
to the Epiponi when he exhorted them to "read the sources
for yourself at firsthand."
What is quoted here constitutes only 15% of Moorcroft's full text. The full presentation (including the Isis review and figure) may be obtained by sending $US1.00 for postage and photocopying to me.
Leroy Ellenberger, "Per Veritatem Vis"
3929A Utah Street
St. Louis, MO 63116
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