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Cradle of Saturn
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Background

Back in the time when I was a teenager— somewhere between the Beatles and the last Ice Age— I read and got very excited about the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, and then largely forgot about them when Establishment science seemed unanimous in dismissing him as a crank. Those were the days when I was more inclined to dutifully and uncritically accept what authoritative institutions said. In more recent times I had reason to look into the matter again, eventually coming to the opinion that Velikovsky was probably on the right track and the eminences wrong. (What happened, in essence, was that somebody sent me a copy of Charles Ginenthal’s book Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, a comprehensive collection of findings from the space missions and other sources over the years since the fifties that are compatible with Velikovsky’s theories while rebutting the experts who denigrated him—an eye-opener on every page.)

Very basically, in 1950 Velikovsky produced a book, Worlds in Collision, that was the result of following the unthinkable premise that writers of ancient historic records might actually have know what they were talking about and have something valuable to tell us. In particular, when accounts from cultures world-wide all seem to corroborate and describe the same thing, they should be regarded as providing serious data against which we might wish to compare our scientific theories. His proposal was, in short, that Venus is a young planet not an old one, having evolved from a giant comet that made a close encounter with the Earth around 3,500 years ago, and that at some time before that it originated by fission from Jupiter. He was greeted with a furor of rage and derision seldom seen in the scientific community, although just about all of the concepts seen as heresies then--such as catastrophic events influencing the history of the Solar System; the origin of minor planets by fission from Jupiter-like proto-stars--have become progressively more respectable. One line of objections was that if such events had taken place within human history, the terrestrial geological and biological record should show evidence of it. Velikovsky obligingly produced book filled with such evidence, Earth In Upheaval, in 1952, making no appeal to anything written by humans, but providing just nature's records. It was then argued that historical chronologies, calendar's, timekeeping methods would have been disrupted. Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos, 1955, showed that indeed they had--everywhere.

Whether one agrees with these conclusions or not, there can be no excusing the behavior of the scientific establishment in its campaign of personal attacks, character defamation, distortion and suppression of facts, intimidation of publishers and dissenters, to get these views either withheld from the public or misrepresented to them. The director of a major planetarium and museum curator was summarily fired from both positions for simply writing a favorable review of Velikovsky's first book, and the editor who accepted the manuscript was forced to resign after 25 years with the company (Macmillan). A systematic campaign was conducted to discredit Velikovsky as a crank or charlatan—largely successful to this day.

The pattern of the whole affair was typical of, though more extreme than, one that I had been coming across for several years in which many areas of institutionalized science seem to be exhibiting more the qualities of a quasi-religious cult committed to defending entrenched dogmas than the impartiality and open-mindedness expected of free inquiry. If these fascinating speculations weren’t getting the exposure that I felt they deserved from the regular scientific literature, then perhaps a fictional treatment would help promote a wider awareness. Besides, the scenario makes a wonderful premise for a worldwide disaster setting. On a deeper note, too, the situation that develops in the book argues a case for vigorous expansion into space by humanity as a whole for reasons that go beyond short-term profits or military paranoia.

Of course, between my starting the project and completing the book, Hollywood had to come up with Armageddon and Deep Impact both in the same year. But I think Cradle of Saturn offers a much more comprehensive insight to what could be the consequences of a truly awesome object loose in the Solar System than just a big rock hitting the Earth.

 
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