EXCERPTS FROM CATASTROPHE OF ETHICS -- The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously
1. (From EARLY WORK: THE MAKINGS OF AN ICONOCLAST)
How It All Began: A Small Question About the Exodus
In the summer of 1939 Velikovsky came with his family to the United States to complete his research for a proposed book on ancient history covering the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. In comparing records, it struck him as curious that an event that figured so prominently in Hebrew history seemed to have no corresponding account on the Egyptian side. This had been a longstanding problem for historians, who had never been able to agree even who the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus had been. It turned out to be only one of many examples of major historical events in the Hebrew account with no correlating Egyptian counterpart, which had led some historians to dismiss Hebrew history as largely fictional. On the other hand, its claims received substantial support from archeological findings.
Further investigation led to a translation of an obscure papyrus written by an Egyptian sage called Ipuwer, kept at the museum of Leiden, in Holland, that described a time of rivers turning to blood, falling stones, sickness, darkness, and other events uncannily like those recounted in Exodus, in the aftermath of which the land fell into ruin and civil war, to be overrun by Asiatic tribes from the east. A papyrus preserved at the Ermitage in Leningrad told a similar tale of the Egyptian empire perishing in a period of natural disasters and falling prey to desert nomads.
It seemed that the missing Egyptian corroboration had been found. However, such considerations as language style and certain historical references indicated the time of these events to be the collapse of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, conventionally dated around 500 years before the Exodus, the latter being identified with the expulsion from Egypt of a people referred to as the Hyksos. Velikovsky began to suspect that this equating of the Hyksos with the Hebrews was an error, and the Hyksos were in fact the desert tribe that had invaded Egypt at the time the Middle Kingdom ended and the Hebrews left-- and were then driven out themselves at a later date. This would mean that the Middle Kingdom ended more recently than the accepted chronology holds, leading Velikovsky to reexamine the entire Egyptian-Hebrew historical record. Since Egyptian chronology was taken as the standard by which the histories of other cultures in the region were correlated and dated, any error found in it would have widespread repercussions. And Velikovsky's conclusion was that the grounds the standard rested on were a lot shakier than was confidently supposed.
The ancient Egyptians did not use an absolute time scale as we do today, of dating all events with respect to a chosen reference year. They chronicled events occurring during the reign of each ruler separately, dating them from the beginning of that period--a bit like saying that the great San Francisco earthquake happened in the second year of Theodore Roosevelt, and then having to start over again with William Taft. This created many uncertainties for later scholars, first by being unclear about exactly what was meant in such cases as a co-regency by father and son, and second by frequently leaving no definite indication of how long a reign lasted. In addition to these, the list of dynasties drawn up by the historian-priest Manetho, which is used as the key in many accepted reconstructions, has been passed down in two recorded versions that don't agree, both apparently having been exaggerated by the inclusion of extraneous years and dynasties. Sometimes this stemmed from the practice of giving the same person different names, leading to acts of the same Pharaoh being attributed to different individuals; at others it seemed deliberately contrived to show Egypt's civilization as going back farther than rivals such as the Greek or Assyrian-Babylonian.
Resorting to astronomical evidence to provide an absolute time scale frequently leads to the same kind of circularity as we found with Darwinism. The historians and the astronomers each believe that the other has accurate data to support the conventional chronology, and hence their own speculations must be true. A.H. Gardiner, the original translator of the Ipuwer papyrus, commented that, "what is proudly advertised as Egyptian history is merely a collection of rags and tatters." Velikovsky's response was to go with what the weight of evidence seemed to say and concluded that Egyptian history was padded to the extent of making events seem 500 to 800 years further away from the present than they had in fact been. To bring things into line, he proposed moving the end of the Middle Kingdom and invasion by the Hyksos down 500 years to accord with the Hebrew date for the Exodus of around 1450 B.C. When this was done, a whole set of what had been other anomalies were found to line up too.
The biblical account of the Queen of Sheba's royal visit to Jerusalem after hearing of the fame and wisdom of king Solomon has always had something of a mysterious air, not the least being that the identity of this majestic sovereign and the location of her domain have never been established. She is described elsewhere as queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, but conventional chronology has no female Pharaohs in Egypt during this period. But 600 years before the accepted biblical date, practically the inverse story is told in Egyptian records. Queen Hatshepsut, a female Pharaoh, journeyed with a large entourage to a land to the east called Punt, described by one official as being associated with Byblos, the old capital of Phoenicia, its ruins today lying eighteen miles north of Beirut. Descriptions of the route overland from Thebes to the Red Sea coast, and by sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, returning via the Mediterranean and back up the Nile, tally. On her return, Hatshepsut built a temple patterned after the one she had visited in Punt, its wall decorated by reliefs commemorating her visit. The gifts from the ruler of Punt that they record closely match those that the Hebrew texts list as Solomon's to the Queen of Sheba. One of the features of Solomon's temple that especially impressed the Queen of Sheba was its terraces planted with algum trees. Hatshepsut's temple at Thebes was laid out with similar terraces planted in the same way.
And so it goes. Hebrew history records that after Solomon's death his son and successor, Rehoboam, was conquered by a king of Egypt called Shishak. Hatshepsut's successor in Egypt was Thutmose III, who invaded Palestine. Topping the list made at Karnak of the 119 cities that he took--the place where the most important would normally be found--is one called Kadesh. Many Hebrew and Arabic writings give Kadesh as the name of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. Conventional historians have always hesitated to make this connection, however, since by their chronology David didn't establish it as the capital until long after Thutmose. A number of the other cities listed as conquered by Thutmose III didn't even yet exist according to the orthodox chronology. But if Shishak and Thutmose III were one and the same, as Velikovsky maintained, then it all makes sense.
Velikovsky's revised chronology also explained many discrepancies in the histories of other cultures whose chronology is derived from the Egyptian standard. One example is in styles of pottery and tomb construction found in parts of Cyprus and the neighboring coast of Syria, where clear association between the two cultures is indicated. However, conventional dating puts the Syrian culture 500 years earlier than the other--presumably implying that customs and influences took that long to propagate across sixty miles of water. Another is the "dark age" of ancient Greece that orthodox chronology is forced to postulate to make its dates match with the Egyptian, when progress in the development of Greek art and technology ceased for half a millennium for no apparent reason and then resumed again. What makes this even more perplexing is that the activity of the Greek olive industry that supplied oil for lamps, cooking, and so forth, as recorded in layers of pollen grains preserved on lake bottoms, indicates it to have been at a maximum during precisely this time This would be like archeologists of the future determining that U.S. oil production peaked before Columbus arrived. But under the revised scheme the Greek time line closes up as Egypt's is contracted, and the need for a dark age goes away.
The outline for Velikovsky's revised chronology was published in 1945 as a booklet, Theses for the Reconstruction of Ancient History. Later, a more detailed account of about half of this work would be published as a full book form, covering the period from the Exodus to the time of The Pharaoh Akhnaton.
Implications of Catastrophism
However, this was only a beginning. The Exodus had been synchronized with the collapse of the Middle Kingdom at around 1450 B.C. However else the plagues and other disruptions attending these events might have been interpreted at the time, the most likely explanation was that they coincided with a period of natural disasters. This invited the questions: how widespread were they? and, what caused them? Starting with the regions adjoining Egypt and Israel, Velikovsky began investigating the histories and received mythologies of other ancient cultures for indications of parallel events. It became apparent that the phenomenon had affected not just the Middle East but places far remote from it as well. In fact, it showed signs of being a global catastrophe. Further, it hadn't been the first time such a thing had happened, and neither was it the last.
The first affliction that the Bible describes as befalling the Egyptians was the rivers turning to blood and there being blood throughout the land, both of which Ipuwer echoed. Babylonian myth tells of the land being covered by the blood of the slain heavenly monster, Tiamat. Likewise, those of the Asiatic Tartars and the Central American Maya relate sagas of the world turning red, while the Finns say it was sprinkled with pink milk.
Then came "hail." The word chosen by the earlier translators was one that we associate with icy pellets and cold rains, but this might be because they could imagine little else falling from the sky. The original Hebrew word, barad, means hot rocks. Ipuwer describes falling stones and fire, which in a day, he says, turned all the fields to wastelands. Similar accounts of red-hot stones falling in torrents, frequently accompanied by crashing thunder and showers of a blazing, sticky substance that ran along the ground causing widespread death and destruction, appear in Buddhist texts on world cycles, Siberian legends, and tales handed down in places as far apart as Mexico and Siberia. The same kind of story can be told relating days of darkness so intense that people were unable to move from the spot they were at, worldwide hurricanes that swept away towns and forests, and earthquakes devastating entire regions.
Finally, there are suggestions the "parting of the waters" during the pursuit by the Egyptians could have been the local aspect of a tidal disruption of global dimensions. Chinese annals tell of a time when the world was in flames, after which the water of the oceans was piled to enormous heights and swept across the continent to fill the valleys between the mountains, taking decades to drain away. The traditions of the people of Peru hold that after five days of darkness the ocean left the shore and broke over the land, changing the appearance of the surface permanently. The Choctaw Indians of Oklahoma (not their original habitat) relate a time when the world was plunged in darkness until light appeared in the north; but the light turned out to be mountain-high waves of water rapidly approaching.
Venus and the Cosmic Connection
Repeatedly, these calamities were attributed to a malicious deity--almost invariably a goddess--coming to wreak havoc upon the Earth. Although the actual names naturally varied, the deities involved turned out time and time again to be the one that cultures worldwide associated with the object we know today as the planet Venus. But they didn't talk about it as if it were a planet; they described it as a comet. A Chinese text describes Venus as spanning the heavens, rivaling the Sun in brightness. Mexican astronomers referred to it as "the star that smokes," while on the opposite side of the world the same theme is found in the Hindu Vedas, the Hebrew Talmud, and the Egyptian description of Sekhmet. The Aztecs called Venus the "heart" of Quetzlcoatl, which in turn means "plumed serpent," with feathers that signify fire. The serpent or dragon is one of the most common figures used in the ancient world to signify "comet," examples being the Greek Typhon, Egyptian Set, Babylonian Tiamat, Hindu Vrta, all of whom raged across the sky and brought destruction upon the world.
The word "comet" comes from the Greek coma, meaning hair, and among ancient astronomers referred to a star with hair, or a beard. The same appellation was given to Venus. One of the Mexican names for Venus was "the mane"; the Peruvian name, chaska, means "wavy-haired"; the Arabs call Venus "the one with hair." One of the most vivid comet images is the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, recognized universally as representing Venus. Ishtar is described as being "the bright torch of heaven," "clothed in fire," and the "fearful dragon," while her heavenly manifestation is known as the "bearded star."
Another widespread association of Venus was with the figure of a cow or a bull, still recalled in many religious rites and cults today. If Venus did indeed once possess a cometary coma, the illuminated portions would at times be seen as a gigantic crescent in the same way as the crescent forms of planets and of the Moon, especially during close approaches to Earth. The curving shapes sprouting from the body of the comet would be suggestive of a bull's head and horns.
Velikovsky discovered that the Hindu records from before the second millennium B.C. spoke of four visible planets, not five, omitting Venus. The Babylonians, who were also meticulous in their observations, likewise made no mention of Venus in their tables of planets. In Greek mythology, Venus was the goddess Pallas Athene, unique among the deities in being born during the time of human history and not present, like all the other gods, from the beginning. The hymn dedicated to her by Homer describes Pallas Athene as being born from the head of Zeus, i.e. Jupiter. And once again mythologies of other peoples, too, carry accounts of the birth of their deity that corresponds to Venus, but not Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury, or any of the other gods.
In Greek legend, Athene was attacked by a monster, Pallas-Typhon, whom she fought and killed. Likewise, the newborn Egyptian Horus battled with the serpent-monster, Seth, as did the Hindu Vishnu, also a newcomer to the celestial family, born of the many-armed Shiva. Horus was originally the Egyptian name for Jupiter, apparently transferred to the new object that became supreme in the sky--possibly due to some initial confusion as to which was which. The same thing happened in the Babylonian version, where Ishtar was originally Jupiter and became Venus, Jupiter being renamed Marduk.
Velikovsky's conclusion, then, was that Venus is not billions of years old as believed according to orthodox theory, but a young object ejected from Jupiter within the span of recorded human history. In the course of evolving into the planet that we see today it had passed close enough to bring death, terror, and destruction on an immense scale, and disturbed the motion of the Earth itself. This carried the impertinent suggestion that the ancients might not have been so facile as to spend lifetimes inventing fairytales and building imposing monuments to them, but might actually have known what they were talking about and had something important to say; that the "mythologies" dismissed by the authorities of today as fanciful fictions could in fact have been attempts by nontechnical people to describe events that they actually witnessed. This would mean, of course, that the comforting picture of a safe and secure Solar System acting out its predictable cycles with minor variations, arrived at by projecting back today's quiescent conditions, was wrong; the Solar System could be a very violent and unpredictable place indeed. But Velikovsky had already shown from his historical revisions what he thought of conventionally accepted pictures of things if what appeared to be the facts indicated otherwise.
What first suggested a cosmic connection was a passage that Velikovsky came across in the Book of Joshua, describing what sounded like an intense meteorite shower causing widespread destruction before the famous incident where the Sun "stood still." (The meteorites killed more of the enemy than Joshua's soldiers did.) This led to the discovery of the wider pattern of cataclysms associated with Venus and suggested the possibility that the events at the time of the Exodus, 52 years previously, might have been an early instance of the same thing. Velikovsky's eventual conclusion was that Venus had come close to Earth on both occasions, although the second encounter was farther away and less violent. Maya records also tell of a time of destruction coming fifty years after an earlier, greater catastrophe. Interestingly, their account talks about the night being abnormally long.
Thereafter, priests and astronomers everywhere followed the movements of Venus relentlessly for signs of its returning again. Whole temples and cults were devoted to worshiping and appeasing the deity that it was taken to be, invariably regarded as violent and wrathful. A fifty-year cycle between times of hardship and destruction is recounted in the traditions and records of cultures the world over. The natives of pre-Columbian Mexico observed a ceremony of congregating every fifty-two years to await a catastrophe, fearful that the Sun would fail to rise again. They watched for the appearance of Venus, and when the world didn't end, celebrated with bonfires and sacrifices the new period of grace that had been granted. The Israelite festival of the Jubilee was proclaimed every fifty years as a time for leaving the land fallow, releasing slaves, and returning land to the original owners as a sign of repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement.
The Universal War-God: Mars
This pattern continued for something like seven centuries. Then a striking change took place in the order of precedence the ancients gave to their celestial gods: Venus ceased being the most feared object in the heavens, the destroyer and bringer of chaos, and was replaced in this role by Mars, universally acclaimed as the war god.
Mars had not figured as a significant figure in the celestial pantheon before the eighth century B.C. It was known, of course, and its motions tabled, but it seems generally to have been considered a minor player. Then, suddenly, it achieved prominence. This was not a period shrouded in the distant past, but a time when observations and written records had become more refined and extensive. Mythologies abound with accounts of battles between Venus and Mars, one of the most well known being Homer's Iliad, in which heavenly deities influenced the fortunes of the combatants in the ten-year siege of Troy, Athene siding with the Greeks, while the Trojans were backed by Ares, the Greek name for Mars. Interestingly, this practically mirrors the situation on the other side of the world in the wars between the Aztecs and the Toltecs, where Mars rooted for the former, and Venus, the latter. (Once again this questions conventional chronology, making the American civilizations much older than is generally held. Of which, more later.)
Following these encounters, Mars continued to menace Earth periodically for about ninety years, bringing earthquakes, floods, and times of desolation, though never with a ferocity rivaling the first two visits of Venus. This was the age of prophets, who developed reputations for knowing when hard times were ahead; it could also be the source of the astrological belief in celestial events portending disasters and affecting lives down on Earth--it would be a peculiar notion to arise today, with the planets being insignificant pinpoints. The prophet Amos predicted destruction that arrived in 747 B.C., but didn't live to see it because he seized the opportunity to link the event to morality and warn people to mend their ways, so they killed him. Amos's cue might have been an encounter that conceivably took place in 776 B.C., the year the Olympic games were founded--possibly in commemoration of it.
Isaiah, Joel, and Micah all had their turns until 687 B.C., which marked the final Mars approach. This was the year in which the army of Sennacherib was "smote" in the night, while preparing to attack Jerusalem, by something usually translated as "blast" that left 185,000 dead in the morning. Velikovsky guesses at an interplanetary electrical discharge. The Hebrew Talmud and Midrash date this event as the first night of the Passover, which would make it March 23rd. Chinese sources ascribed to Confucius, and also Chinese annals referring to the tenth year of the Wu Dynasty under Emperor Kwei pinpoint this date as a time when "the five planets went out of their courses. In the night, stars fell like rain. The Earth shook."
Before this time, the calendars of the Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Hebrews, as well as the Incas of Peru and the Mayas of the Yucatan had all shown a year of 360 days. The modern year of 365¼ days was introduced subsequently. Following this final event, Mars and Venus retreated to take up their stations as we know them today. And the gods, their anger, and their caprices faded from being a vivid and terrifying reality in human affairs, to a realm regarded these days as imaginative fancy and superstition.
2. (From TESTIMONY FROM THE ROCKS: EARTH IN UPHEAVAL )
A line that some critics of Worlds in Collision had been harping was that if events as violent as those Velikovsky described had really happened in recent times, they would have left unmistakable signs all over the surface of the Earth. Either the critics hadn't heard of Cuvier, or they had forgotten him. In November, 1955, Velikovsky obliged them with the publication of Earth in Upheaval, a testimony drawn not from myth or anything created by the minds of Man, but written into the rocks of the planet itself. In it, he examined the then-unquestioned principle of Lyellian gradualism, and contrasted its tenets with what is actually found the world over, testifying to immense cataclysms that changed the face of the Earth.
The Fossil Graveyards
From Alaska to Florida, Europe to Far Eastern Asia, huge graveyards are found, containing the remains of millions of animals, many types abundant and well adapted until recent times, but now extinct. They didn't die out gradually but were overwhelmed suddenly and violently across whole regions, along with entire forests that were uprooted and splintered. The fast-frozen mammoths with pieces of their last meal still preserved between their teeth that most people today have heard about represent just a tiny part of the picture. Off the north coasts of Siberia are islands hundreds of feet high that consist of practically nothing but heaped up bones and tusks of mammoths, elephants, rhinoceroses, and smashed trees. Fissures, caves, and excavations across the British Isles, France, Switzerland, Gibraltar yield elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, lions, tigers, bears, wolves, hyenas and others that the perplexed archeologists of earlier times could only guess had been brought by the Romans. But the numbers were too vast for that to be credible. In many instances the types were already extinct by the time of the Romans; others were later found spread across parts of Europe that they were just as foreign to, but which the Romans had never occupied. Whales somehow found their way to lodgements 500 feet above sea level in Michigan, Vermont, and Quebec.
The scale and nature of the devastation is consistent with a gigantic tidal surge away from the equator, being stopped at barriers such as the Himalaya chain and the Alps, but elsewhere funneling through the northern Atlantic and Pacific inlets to the Arctic Basin and then rebounding in a backwash rolling southward across the Asian and North American continents. In many places the animal and plant debris are of all types from all regions, marine and land forms, from tropical and temperate climates, all jumbled and heaped up together. The Siwalik Hills on the southern edge of the Himalayas consist of sedimentary deposits 2,000 to 3,000 feet high and extending for several hundred miles, abounding with fossil beds of so many and so varied species that the animal world of today looks impoverished by comparison. Thirteen hundred miles away, in central Burma, the deposits cut by the Irrawaddy river reach 10,000 feet and contain a comparable variety, along with hundreds of thousands of entire trunks of silicified trees. Yet, as also happens in other places, the beds are separated by huge thicknesses of sediment--4,000 feet in the case of the Irrawaddy--that contain no fossils or trace of any organic material at all, suggesting the sudden halting of colossal volumes of water.
Earthmoving and Excavation
Rapidly moving water can move amazingly heavy objects. Erratic rocks and boulders found hundreds of miles from their places of origin have usually been attributed to transportation by glaciers or ice sheets. But they occur widely across parts of Siberia where there are no high grounds to impart motion to ice, and in places that were never covered by ice.
The evidence Velikovsky presents is of precisely the kind that the events proposed in Worlds in Collision would be expected to leave, such as of meteorite storms, pole shifts, abrupt climate changes, alterations of sea-level, and increased tectonic activity. Mountain uplifts and other formations show indications of being younger than conventional geology maintains. The Columbia Plateau consists of solidified lava sheets covering two hundred thousand square miles of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Snake River at Seven Devils Canyon has cut more than three thousand feet deep and not reached the bottom of them. Tens of thousands of elliptical craters, many now flooded to form lakes, occur all along the coastal areas from New Jersey to northeast Florida, but especially in the Carolinas. They all exhibit a parallel alignment from northwest to southeast, and many have raised rims at the southern end, suggestive of scars from an intense meteorite shower coming down at a grazing angle. Similar patterns occur at other parts of both hemispheres. Volcanic and earthquake activity has declined significantly even since Roman times. In the Andes, ruins of fishing villages and ports are found 12,000 feet above sea level. What were once cultivated agricultural terraces today disappear under the snow line.
Of course, much of this clashes with the orthodox dating system. In his usual fashion, Velikovsky cares little for theory and sides with the evidence, questioning the assumptions that the conventional dating system rests on. It was more a product of materialism's fight with religion than an empirical construct, he contends, manufactured to provide the long time scales that Lyell and Darwin needed. Paralleling much of what we said earlier in this book, he was skeptical that natural selection had the ability to do what was claimed of it and offered evidence that biological change occurred in sudden epochs of repopulation by radically new designs, triggered by the occurrence of global-scale catastrophes. Needless to say, this didn't earn him many friends in that department either.
3. (From ORTHODOXY IN CONFUSION)
The reactions after release of Earth in Upheaval were more restrained than to Worlds in Collision, possibly because some were beginning to feel that things had gone too far for the good of the professional image the first time. Others no doubt hoped that if they ignored Velikovsky he might just go away. But a big part of the reason could have been that an embarrassing number of his predictions were beginning to be shown as correct.
When Worlds in Collision was published, four Yale University professors had collaborated in preparing a rebuttal in the American Journal of Science, where one of them ridiculed the suggestion that the Mesoamerican civilization appeared to be much older than conventional history allowed. Five years later, the National Geographical Society announced: "Atomic science has proved the ancient civilizations of Mexico to be some 1,000 years older than had been believed." The Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution declared this to be the most important archeological discovery in recent history.
Another of the Yale critics scorned Velikovsky's suggestion that petroleum might have a cosmic origin. Two years later, in 1952, P.V. Smith reported in Science (October 24) the "surprising fact" that oil from recently deposited sediments along the Gulf of Mexico could be only thousands of years old. Hydrocarbons were subsequently found in the composition of some types of meteorites. A smallish carbonaceous chondrite asteroid--say, around ten kilometers in diameter--is estimated to contain a trillion tons of them. In 1960, Professor A.T. Wilson of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, produced high-molecular-weight hydrocarbons by electric discharges in Jupiter-like gases and suggested that terrestrial petroleum might have come from elsewhere--a theme that others have taken up since. Both he and Professor W. Libby, chemist at the University of California, speculated that oil might exist on the Moon. By the early 1960s, neon and argon were repeatedly being found in meteorites too.
In April of the same year as Earth in Upheaval was published, 1955, scientists from the Carnegie Institution startled their audience at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society by announcing the chance detection of unexpected radio emanations from Jupiter, which they had recorded for several weeks before identifying the source. When a Doubleday editor wrote, calling attention to Velikovsky's anticipating just such a finding, one of them replied that even Velikovsky was entitled to a "near miss once in a while." The full extent of the radiation belt encompassing Jupiter, a hundred trillion times more powerful than Earth's, was established in 1960.
Dr. Harry Hess, head of the department of geology at Princeton University, who had always been sympathetic toward Velikovsky's theories, submitted a memorandum to the U.S. National Committee in December 1956, proposing as part of the planned agenda for the International Geophysical Year a search for the extended region of terrestrial magnetic influence as Velikovsky had suggested. The Van Allen Belts were discovered in 1958 and featured as one of the high points of the program. In 1960 the Pioneer V space probe was launched, and after it had been in solar orbit for six weeks NASA called a press conference to announce that "In one exciting week, man has learned more about the near reaches of space that surround the earth than the sum of his knowledge over the last 50 years. . . . [A] fantastic amount of cosmic traffic (hot gaseous clouds, deadly rays, bands of electricity) rushes by at high speed, circles, crisscrosses, and collides." The tail of the Earth's magnetosphere was later measured as extending beyond the orbit of the Moon.
There was also news from Venus. As late as 1959, many astronomers still maintained that because of the great reflectivity of its cloud cover its surface temperature would be little different from Earths despite its closer orbit to the Sun. However, in April 1961, radio astronomers announced that the figure had to be at least 600oF. In 1963, after analysis of data from the Mariner 2 probe, the measured value turned out to be 800oF. At about the same time, radiometric measurements by the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Goldstone Tracking Station in California showed Venus to have a very slow retrograde rotation, making it unique among the planets and suggesting something unusual about its history. Some astronomers wondered if it might have been created separately from the others.
Further results from Mariner 2 were interpreted as indicating atmospheric condensation and polymerization into heavy molecules at temperatures around 200oF, leading to the conclusion that it must contain heavy hydrocarbons and possibly more complex organic compounds. Lloyd Motz of Columbia, who had supported Velikovsky before, along with Princeton physicist V. Bargmann, wrote a joint letter to Science drawing attention to Velikovsky's priority in predicting these seemingly unrelated facts about the Solar System and urged that his whole thesis be objectively reexamined. When the letter was published, Velikovsky submitted a paper showing that the points brought out in the letter were just a few of many his books raised, that had been supported by independent research. The paper was returned unread. Instead, Science published a facetious letter from a reader stating that "the accidental presence of one or two good apples does not redeem a spoiled barrelful." Or a barrelful of sour grapes, maybe?
More Electrical Heresies: Charges and Counter-Charges
The theoretical front was seeing some interesting developments also. One of Velikovsky's suggestions that had been greeted with derision was that electromagnetic forces might play a part in celestial dynamics as well as gravity, and that astronomical bodies could be affected by acquiring electrical charge during their encounters. At a meeting of the American Philosophical Society in 1952, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin presented a paper taking Velikovsky to task on selected biblical quotations, but which was itself riddled with misrepresentations. Velikovsky, who was in the audience, came forward to give a rebuttal and was warmly received. But when he requested that his remarks be reproduced along with Gaposchkin's in the society's Proceedings, he was refused.
Appended to Gaposchkin's paper, however, was a "quantitative refutation of Velikovsky's wild hypotheses" by Donald H. Menzel, also of Harvard. To show how preposterous Velikovsky's hypothesis was, Menzel demonstrated that to contribute ten percent of its gravitational attraction on the Earth, the Sun would need a charge of 1019 volts, whereas he calculated it was incapable or retaining anything greater than 1800 volts. Then in 1960, Professor V. A. Bailey, Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney, Australia, who was not familiar with Velikovsky's work, announced that the magnitudes of five different known astronomical phenomena could be explained by the single hypothesis that a star like the Sun carries a net negative charge. Bailey's figures for making this work gave a surface potential of 1019 volts--precisely that which Menzel had used to show how wacky Velikovsky was. Menzel wrote to Bailey pointing out what he perceived as an error and asked that Bailey revoke his theory since it wasn't helping the American scientists' campaign to discredit Velikovsky. Bailey took exception to the suggestion and in turn uncovered an arithmetical slip in Menzel's calculations that invalidated Menzel's whole argument. Menzel duly published a correction, but without acknowledging that it demolished his widely publicized anti-Velikovsky claim.
With regard to the radio emissions from Jupiter, Menzel wrote that since scientists generally didn't accept the theory of Worlds in Collision, "any seeming verification of Velikovsky's predictions is pure chance." He dismissed the prediction of the high temperature of Venus on the grounds that Velikovsky hadn't supplied a figure but said only that it would be hot, which was a relative term--liquid air, for example, being "hot" relative to liquid helium.
Velikovsky's suggestion of electrical interaction as an agency for arresting the motion of the Earth and circularizing the orbit of Venus had been scoffed at by the eminences because they insisted that the bodies of the Solar System were not charged, and the space between them was electromagnetically inert. Both these assertions had been shown to be wrong. 1960 was also the year when Professor André Danjon, Director of the Paris Observatory, reported to l'Académie des Sciences that, following an unusually large solar flare, the length of the day suddenly increased by 0.85 milliseconds, which he ascribed to electromagnetic forces induced by the flare. Thereafter, as the charge acquired by the Earth leaked away into the conductive medium afforded by the recently discovered solar wind, the Earth's rotation recovered at the rate of 3.7 microseconds every 24 hours.
We saw earlier how fiercely the entrenched priesthood resisted Hans Alfvén's theories about space being an electrically active medium--from one of the club, who later received a Nobel Prize for his work in celestial electrodynamics. It isn't difficult to imagine how they must have felt about being upstaged by a scholar in ancient history and classical languages, who was not only asking questions that they themselves should have been asking long before, but moving in on the turf and coming up with some good answers.
4. (From SLAYING THE MONSTER. THE AAAS VELIKOVSKY SYMPOSIUM, 1974)
Through all of this, two traits stand out in the treatment of Velikovsky by his detractors. One is repeated admissions, frequently boasts, by his most vehement critics that they hadn't read the material they castigated--as if the touch of it might be somehow unclean and defiling. They just "knew" that he couldn't be right, and that was sufficient. The other was that after solemnly reciting commitment to such scholarly principles as scientific objectivity, fairness, and civility of discourse, they would then go on to immediately violate every one of them. Organized science had tried every tactic of distortion, evasion, misrepresentation, intimidation, vilification, and suppression of evidence to slay the monster that threatened the entire foundation of the collective uniformitarian world view and mind set. But after twenty years, interest in Velikovsky's theories was not only getting stronger with the apparent vindication from all quarters that was getting past the censorship and receiving coverage, but Velikovsky was no longer virtually alone. Scientists from many disciplines were beginning to organize in his defense, bringing the message to a new generation of readers and students. The topic became included in university courses, and Velikovsky symposia and invitations for Velikovsky to speak on university campuses multiplied. The list of venues from 1970 to 1974 included Harvard; SUNY-Buffalo, Notre Dame, and North Carolina Universities, as well as McMasters and Lethbridge in Canada; NASA Ames Research Center; Lewis and Clark College, Portland; the IBM Research Center; and a conference in Switzerland devoted to his work. In 1971 the editors of Pensée decided to publish a special issue on the purely scientific aspects of Velikovsky's ideas, but the amount of material available was by then so vast that it became a ten-issue series--later compiled into book form as Velikovsky Reconsidered (1976)--which attracted widespread attention.
It couldn't be allowed to go on. The occasion for exorcizing Velikovsy and his heresies from the land and reaffirming the true faith was selected to be the 1974 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which that year was scheduled to be held in San Francisco.
A Glimpse of the Ground-Rules
In the summer of 1972, a past president of the AAAS, astronomer and atmospheric scientist Walter Orr Roberts, had written to Stephen L. Talbott, the editor of Pensée, suggesting that a symposium be held on Velikovsky's work. It seems that Roberts's motives were fair and aimed at an honest reappraisal. The following year an announcement appeared in Science, inviting suggestions for the 1974 AAAS meeting agenda. Dr. C.J. Ransom, a plasma physicist, AAAS member, and Velikovsky supporter, proposed the topic of "Venus--A Youthful Planet," offering himself as conference organizer and proposing several more names as speakers. This was rejected without explanation, but less than a month later a similar proposal was accepted from the AAAS Astronomy Committee, the salient difference being that it was to be organized by noted critics of Velikovsky. It soon became clear that the intention was not to stage an impartial debate but a court of inquisition, where the verdict already had been determined. The aim was not to give Velikovsky a hearing but to discredit him in the eyes of the press and the public, and banish his ideas from the forum of acceptable scientific discourse. In this it was resoundingly successful and for the most part remains so to the present time.
The agreement had been that there would be six panelists, three pro- and three anti-Velikovsky, and that Velikovsky would be allotted excess time since he would be presenting his own paper as well as answering his opponents. The promises were promptly broken. The two others that Velikovsky nominated to make up his side were Ransom, cited above, and Professor Lynn E. Rose, a specialist in the history, philosophy, and method of science, who had also taught ancient history and classical languages. These would have made up a formidable team indeed, fully conversant with Velikovsky's theories and between them amply informed to speak on all of the important issues. That was probably why the rules were hastily changed to exclude them. Rose was disqualified on the grounds that he was not from the "hard sciences"--although nothing about such had been said up to this point. Ransom obviously fitted this stipulation, but it suddenly became necessary to be an "academician," whereas he was at the time employed in corporate research. Velikovsky was unwilling to go away and come back with further names when the ones he'd said he wanted were turned down, which later resulted in his being blamed for the blatant inequality that he was to face.
However, the AAAS committee dropped its criteria when it came to selecting their own speakers: Norman Storer, a professor of the hard science of sociology at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York; Peter Huber, Professor of Mathematical Statistics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, whose qualification was what he described as his "hobby" of cuneiform writing; J.Derral Mullholland, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas, Austin; and, doubtless to secure the popular vote, the scientific celebrity-figure Carl Sagan, from the laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. A further speaker, not listed on either side of the panel since he gave his position as neutral, was Dr. Irving Michelson, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Originally the deal had been for equal time for both sides of the panel. This was now reinterpreted to mean equal time for each speaker. So, for every half hour that Velikovsky was given, every one of his opponents would receive a half hour too. The flagrant bias was hardly allayed by a statement from King to Pensée stating that "What disturbs the scientists is persistence of these views, in spite of all the efforts the scientists have spent on educating the public," and, "This is not a debate on the correctness of Velikovsky's view of the planetary system; none of us in the scientific community believes that such a debate would be remotely justified at a serious scientific meeting."
So much for the promised impartiality. It apparently followed that the considerable number of specialists who evidently did believe that such a debate would be justified were by definition not among "us" of the scientific community.
Velikovsky's hope that the flood of evidence and rekindled interest in his ideas might finally have won him a fair hearing had clearly been misplaced. Many of his supporters advised him to pull out right there rather than accept a pitch that had already been tilted seismically against him. The bind, of course, was that this would immediately have been seized upon as showing that he had no answers. Lynn Rose has since speculated that Velikovsky knew exactly what he was doing, and accepted the inevitability of short-term defeat, given the climate of the times, in return for an even stronger verdict in his favor that history would one day pronounce.
So it came about that on February 25, 1974, in the Grand Ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel, Velikovsky, then in his 79th year, watched by a press corps that had been appropriately primed and apparently saw nothing amiss with the arrangements, mounted the dais to take on four hostile opponents all around half his age in an ordeal that would last until 1:00 A.M. and continue the following day. The final low trick was that the only paper he was permitted to see in advance was Storer's, which didn't deal with Velikovsky's scientific issues. The others were withheld until the day itself, forcing Velikovsky to muster what defense he could in the time he could find--a practice that would be illegal in any law court not rigged by a totalitarian state. At the end of the first session, which went on for five-and-a-half hours, one reporter, seeing that Velikovsky looked tired, remarked that he was not his own best spokesman. Not one of the press representatives mentioned that at the end of it all, he had acquitted himself well enough to receive a standing ovation.
5. (From SLAYING THE MONSTER. THE AAAS VELIKOVSKY SYMPOSIUM, 1974)
Only the Data that's Fit to Print: The Venus Tablets
Peter Huber's profession and hobby were inverted both in the official program, which described him as a "Prof. of Ancient History" speaking on "Ancient Historical Records," and King's introduction as one who "has made a study of the ancient archaeological records relating to astronomy. He also, incidentally, has a second specialty in statistics . . ."
The essence of Huber's paper was that ancient Babylonian records show Venus to have been where it is today, orbiting as it does today, long before the events that Velikovsky claims, and therefore those events could not have happened. This was a rehash of the same line that Payne-Gaposchkin had used twenty years before, and which Velikovsky had answered. The opposition either hadn't read the earlier exchanges or didn't care, since it would all be new anyway to the public who were to be "educated."
Huber maintained that, "Velikovsky draws on historical and archeological evidence to support his hypothesis, but unfortunately his arguments are mainly based on late and secondary sources, in part on obsolete and erroneous translations, and therefore lack force." A devastating indictment, by the sound of it, from one listed and presented as an authority on the subject. It is acknowledged that discrepancies exist between old translations and modern ones, and then asserted that the modern ones contain the truth, whereas the older ones do not. A better way to phrase it, however, would be that the older ones say what the original records said, whereas the modern ones are "corrected" to reflect what proponents of today's approved theory think they should have said. This couldn't have been better demonstrated than by the procedure that Huber himself followed. It would have been far more "unfortunate" for Huber if Lynn Rose, who was in the audience, had been allowed on the panel as Velikovsky requested. Rose made some pointed observations during the questions session afterward, and later, working with Raymond C. Vaughan, wrote a detailed rebuttal showing just how far the evidence has to be twisted to make it conform to current preconceptions. The title, "Just Plainly Wrong," speaks for itself.
Huber's first claim boiled down to stating that records from Uruk, in Mesopotamia, show Venus to have existed in the early third millennium B.C., before Velikovsky's Venus encounter occurred. But Velikovsky had never denied that Venus existed before then and was visible. His answer at the symposium was, "That Venus was observed before it came into conflict with Earth is clear from what I wrote. It did not come from Jupiter just on the eve of that collision. It came thousands of years before. It could be seen." And what Velikovsky had said all along could have been seen since 1950.
From the floor, Lynn Rose made the point that the symbols for Venus in these very sources that Huber cited, along with representations of Inanna, the goddess associated with Venus, all take the form of a compact body attached to a long, spreading fan shape, distinctly suggestive of a comet. Huber's defense amounted to saying that sometimes they don't. This part of his paper was omitted from the version that appeared in the final book form of the proceedings two and a half years later, entitled, aptly enough, Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1977).
Huber's second claim drew upon the Ammizaduga tablets, mentioned earlier, which were introduced with something of an air of revelation, as if Velikovsky had avoided them because they would damage his case. In fact, Velikovsky cites them extensively for doing just the opposite--provided they're allowed to be taken as meaning what they say.
Since some doubts have been expressed about their conventional assignment to the time of Ammizaduga, Rose refers to them as the "Ninsianna" (Venus) document. They record the appearances and disappearances of Venus as it moves close to the Sun and it is swamped by the solar glare, causing it to be seen first at sunset to one side of the solar disk, and then, following a period of invisibility, at dawn on the other. Today, on its inner orbit, Venus is seen for about 260 days as the "Evening Star," disappears behind the Sun for 63 to 70 days, reappears on the other side as the "Morning Star" for about another 260 days, and after vanishing in front of the Sun for around 8 days becomes the Evening Star again. (It took many ancient cultures some time to figure out that it was the same object.) Note that there's no conflict in the suggestion of a comet on an eccentric orbit spending part of its period inside the Earth's orbit, and hence disappearing periodically behind the Sun. During the time it spent outside the Earth's orbit it would at times appear overhead at night, which could never happen with Venus in today's circumstances. Older translations, however (the ones dismissed as obsolete by Huber), clearly state it as appearing at zenith.
Huber's contention was that when properly understood, the ancient observations match the orbits of Venus and Earth that are seen today, and so the orbits haven't changed. To make this work, a period given in the cuneiform records as 5 months,16 days had to be changed to 2 months, 6 days. Several of the names of the months had to be changed. Places where the texts read "west" had to be changed to "east," and places where they said "east" were changed to "west." Intercalary months--inserted between the regular months of a calendar to correct the cumulative error that builds up from years not being exact multiples of days--were taken out from where they had been put in and inserted where the modern translators thought they should go. Huber justified such alterations as being necessary to amend "scribal errors" in the originals. All in all, under further questioning, he admitted changing 30 percent of his data in this way. So presumably a culture that is noted for astronomical records whose accuracy in some areas was not rivaled until the 19th century employed scribes who couldn't tell east from west, didn't know what month it was, and who bungled their figures 30 percent of the time. But that wasn't the end of it. In his later, more thorough analysis, "Just Plainly Wrong," Rose found the actual count of errors and fudged data to be closer to 75 percent. And even after that amount of abuse, they still don't fit today's orbits.
The press and the custodians of truth who had taken it upon themselves to educate the public were evidently satisfied that the interests of the public were in good hands. The following month, Owen Gingerich, one of the organizers, was quoted in Science (March 14, 1974), in an interview by Robert Gillette, as saying that "He [Huber] demolished Velikovsky" and "There was no point in continuing after that." As with the Egyptian dating figures that we talked about earlier, whatever didn't fit the assumptions was thrown out, and what remained was pointed to as proving the assumptions. The logic is totally circular. Or anything else if you like. On this basis you could pick four points from a circle, alter the rest to suit, and show that it's a square. Small wonder that modern translations fit the approved theory better.
A final argument by Huber was again one that had been used before, namely that dates of eclipses retrocalculated from modern observations match records from before the events that should have made them invalid. Velikovsky responded that none of the instances he was aware of proved much at all, since the locations and dates are not specified, the year alone typically being named or inferred indirectly. One of Huber's examples, taken from the Chinese Spring and Autumn Annals, was given as occurring in the 8th century B.C. In his later study, however, Rose points out that the furthest back this document can be traced is 500 to 600 years after that time. So the question arises of whether the eclipse was actually observed, or was it inferred through retrocalculation by the compilers of the Annals a half a millennium later?--known to be a not-unusual practice. In support of his cautioning against relying too much on such sources, Rose cites a work entitled Science Awakening II, The Birth of Astronomy, by Bartel L. Van der Waerden, where Chapter 4 contains the statement, "Very often it is difficult to decide whether text data were observed or calculated. We know from the diaries of later times that missing observations were filled in by calculation sometimes without explicit indication of the fact . . ."
A contributor to the book, who in his Preface Van der Waerden says wrote considerable parts of Chapters 3 and 4 . . . was Peter Huber.
6. (From SLAYING THE MONSTER. THE AAAS VELIKOVSKY SYMPOSIUM, 1974)
Sagan on Planetary Physics and Surfaces
Problem 8. The Temperature of Venus
The conventional view before results from Mariner 2 showed, in early 1963, the surface temperature of Venus to be 800oF had been that it would be slightly warmer than Earth. By the time of the symposium Sagan's recollection had become, in effect, that "we knew it all along." In fact, the only person--apart from Velikovsky--who had predicted a high temperature a Dr. Rupert Wildt, whose work was based on a greenhouse mechanism and not generally accepted. (By 1979 Sagan's memory had evidently suffered a further lapse, for in Broca's Brain he states [p.153] "One now fashionable suggestion I first proposed in 1960 is that the high temperatures on the surface of Venus are due to a runaway greenhouse effect.") When the conventional view was shown to be spectacularly wrong (one is tempted to say "catastrophically"), Wildt's proposal was hastily resurrected in an attempt to explain why, while preserving the doctrine of a long-established planet and slow, uniformitarian change.
But it doesn't really wash. Contrary to current media fictions, the main agent responsible for Earth's greenhouse effect (a natural phenomenon, without which we'd be around 33oF cooler) isn't carbon dioxide but water vapor, which contributes over 90 percent. Back in the days when Venus's atmosphere was believed to contain a considerable amount of water, the suggestion of an enhanced greenhouse effect yielding temperatures considerably higher than those generally proposed wasn't unreasonable. But it just doesn't work as a plausible mechanism for sustaining the huge temperature gradient that exists down through Venus's atmosphere. Especially when it turns out that the heat source is at the bottom, not the top.
Besides an efficient medium for absorbing and reradiating incoming radiation, an effective greenhouse also needs adequate penetration of the medium by sunlight to utilize the available mass. With Venus, for a start, only about 20 percent of the incoming sunlight gets past the cloud tops 40-45 miles above the surface, the rest being reflected back into space--which is why Venus is so bright. The surface pressure on Venus is around 90 times that of Earth's, which translates into something like 75 times the mass of gases, giving it more the optical characteristics of a sea--in fact, corresponding to a depth of about 3,000 feet. Virtually all the sunlight entering the oceans is absorbed within the top 300 feet. Likewise, any greenhouse mechanism on Venus would be confined to the top 15 percent of the atmosphere. These objections were well known. In 1968 the British astronomer V.A. Firshoff, in The Interior Planets, put it like this:
"The greenhouse effect cannot be magnified ad lib. Doubling the [glass] thickness may enhance its thermal insulation, so raising its temperature, but it will cut down the transmitted sunshine, so reducing its heat. In the end the process becomes self-defeating. . . . The sea is a perfect 'greenhouse' of this kind--none of the obscure heat from the bottom can escape into space. But it is not boiling; in fact it is not much above freezing point. Sagan's deep atmosphere would behave in exactly the same way. . . . An adiabatic atmosphere of a mass envisaged by Sagan is possible only if it is heated from below. In other words, the surface of Venus would have to be kept at a high temperature by internal sources."
By the time the official version of the proceedings was published over two years later as Scientists Confront Velikovsky, Sagan had embellished his argument by reference to the Soviet Venera 9 and 10 landings in October 1975. (True to the spirit of the whole affair, while Sagan was permitted to add a revised appendix of new points, Velikovsky was denied space to respond to them.) The Soviet craft, Sagan claimed, were able to obtain clear pictures in sunlight of surface rocks, showing Velikovsky wrong in saying that light does not penetrate the cloud cover. This doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that the Soviet landers were equipped with floodlights. Further, as reported by Professor Lewis Greenberg, the Venera instruments detected nothing but gloom and darkness after descending through the clouds, until a glow appeared and grew brighter as they neared the surface. The atmosphere at the surface was much brighter than had been expected. V.A. Avduevsky, deputy director of the Soviet Space Flight Control Center, described the terrain as showing distinct, dark shadows that persisted even when the floodlights were turned off, which was unanticipated since sunlight from the clouds would be diffuse. He and his colleagues agreed that it indicated a direct light source on the surface but they could not guess what it was. Velikovsky had proposed that there could still be hydrocarbons burning on the extremely hot surface.
If Sagan is permitted to draw on information from after the symposium, then so shall we. In Scientists Confront Velikovsky and also in Broca's Brain, Sagan charges that the reflected spectrum from Venus is entirely consistent with the infrared cloud temperature of 240oK, in other words the temperature is what would be expected for the amount of sunlight, and this negates Velikovsky's prediction of Venus giving off more heat than it receives from the Sun. That is to say, Venus is in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings, whereas Velikovsky says it shouldn't be. Well, in an article headed "The Mystery of Venus' Internal Heat," the UK journal New Scientist reported in 1980 (November 13) that data from the Pioneer Venus orbiter showed Venus to be radiating 15 percent more energy than is received from the Sun (later figures put it at 20 percent). This would mean that Venus is producing 10,000 times more heat than the Earth--stated as being "inconceivable, according to present theories of planetary formation."
It was so inconceivable, in fact, that the scientists resorted to "correcting" the data that clearly pointed to it. Calculation of thermal balance is quite sensitive to the figure used for albedo, the fraction of sunlight that's reflected. Ground based measurements (examples: 0.878, Muller, 1893; 0.815, Danjon, 1949; 0.815, Knuckles, Sinton & Sinton, 1961; 0.80, Travis, 1975) and measurements from space probes (0.80, Tomasko