Alfred de Grazia
We dedicate this book to people who are concerned about the ways in which scientists behave and how science develops. It deals especially with the freedoms that scientists grant or withhold from one another. The book is also for people who are interested in new theories of cosmogony - the causes of the skies, the earth, and humankind as we see them. It is, finally, a book for people who are fascinated by human conflict, in this case a struggle among some of the most educated, elevated, and civilized characters of our times.
These lines are being written a few weeks after the launching of a carefully prepared book attacking the growing position of Immanuel Velikovsky in intellectual circles . The attack was followed promptly by a withering counter-attack in a special issue of the journal, Kronos . The events reflect a general scene which, since the first appearance of this volume, has been perhaps more congenial to the temperament of war correspondents than of cloistered scholars.
The philosophical psychologist, William James, who once proposed sport as a substitute for warfare, might as well have proposed science and scholarship for the same function. Scientific battles also have their armies, rules, tactics, unexpected turns, passions bridled and unbridled, defeats, retreats, and casualty lists. All of the motives that go into warfare are exercised. In the present controversy, the minds of the combatants must also carry into the fray images of a distant past when the world was ruined by immense disasters, whether or not they deny the images.
Unlike sport, the outcomes of scientific battles are as important, if not more so, than the results of outright warfare. At stake in the controversy over Velikovsky's ideas is not only the system used by science to change itself - which is largely the subject of this book - but also the substantive model of change to be employed by future science - whether is shall be comprehended mainly as revolutionary and catastrophic or as evolutionary and uniform.
The controversy has had many striking facets. One has been the large participation of the public. It continues to increase. Velikovsky has managed to talk to people about mythology, archaeology, astronomy, and geology, without doing injustice to those disciplines, in an amazing and unprecedented manner. Socrates, Aristotle, Galileo, Freud, and Einstein - to name a few thinkers who were implicated in 'crowd phenomena' - were not public figures in the sense here taken. His public - a well-behaved, educated, well-intentioned and diversified aggregate - has supported Velikovsky on every possible occasion. That he was a foreigner with a Russian accent, a psychiatrist, unequivocably a Jew, denounced by some of the most respected scientists of America and Britain, unbending in his person and in his allegiance to science and in refusing every opening for support from demagogic or religious quarters: these facts hardly disturbed the favourable reception granted him by a large public.
That he is a charismatic figure is obvious: fourteen hundred people attended his talk and awarded him a standing ovation at a critical scientific symposium in San Francisco in 1974. But 'charisma' is a bit of jargon; the question remains 'why. ' Although I must reserve the answer until another occasion, I would here suggest that his ideas have represented all the legitimate anxieties about present-day 'knowledge' that educated people possess, whether it be their own knowledge or that of their scientific tutors.
I have lived with 'The Velikovsky Affair' for fifteen years. Often I have been asked how I came to be involved. Sometimes the question comes from my colleagues, who, like myself, have wondered how a million, perhaps two million, serious readers can find that a book like Worlds in Collision makes sense, while a great many scientists and scholars cannot even come to grips with the book, turn away from it angrily, and irritably consign the whole lot of favourable readers to the ranks of religious revivalists who have received The Word.
But there was little heroic, charismatic, revelatory, or even extraordinary about my initiation. The year 1950, which saw the publication of Worlds in Collision, was a busy one in my younger life; I had several infants, a new professorship, and a more than passing engagement with psychological operations in the Korean War, then raging. So the scandal over the book's suppression and success left only a faint scratch upon my mind.
However, in 1962, when I was publishing and editing the American Behavioral Scientist magazine in Princeton, Dr Livio Stecchini, a historian of science also resident there, spoke to me more than once about a man named Dr Velikovsky who also lived in Princeton and had been victimized by the scientific establishment. I listened without enthusiasm to Stecchini, for the annals of science and publishing, like politics, are crowded with cases that are falsely or ineptly brought up, of hopeless theories trying to engage public attention, of feelings of persecution.
Then, one evening, as I was saying my goodbyes at the home of my brother, I espied a book entitled Oedipus and Akhnaton, by one Immanuel Velikovsky. The residual stimuli precipitated a gestalt of curiosity. I borrowed it. I read it from cover to cover, brooking no minor interruption. I thought that it was a masterpiece of true detective literature (a judgement that I think is now confirmed), and telephoned Dr Stecchini to arrange a meeting.
As I talked with Dr Velikovsky - an impressive experience in a person's life - I was introduced to his archive of materials on the case. It was astonishingly rich and ordered. I concluded after several long meetings and much reading among his materials that the history of science had few, if any, cases that were so well documented. I decided to devote a special issue of the American Behavioral Scientist to 'The Velikovsky Affair. '
It was this issue, finally appearing is September 1963 after prolonged, gruelling, and enlightening sessions with Dr Velikovsky and my co-authors, Ralph Juergens and Livio Stecchini and after long hours spent amidst the archive of Velikovsky itself, that formed the basis for the present book. I would not go as far as some commentators in saying that the books brought the great controversy to life when the cause seemed lost; my concept of history is more Tolstoian. Still, the response to the issue was immediate. Eric Larrabee, a publicist, who had a long-standing contract with the Doubleday Company publishers to write a book on the subject, was spurred to publish an article in Harper's magazine about the Velikovsky case. The American Behavioral Scientist issue was expanded, with new contributions by Juergens and Stecchini, and published by University Books two years later. (In the present edition, Dr Stecchini has revised and added much new material to his contributions.)
With notable exceptions, to be described in the pages to come, the book was well received. It was resented by many in the underground of science, which includes the mysterious realms of foundations and government agencies. There, any association whatsoever with Dr Velikovsky is likely to provoke discrimination and reprisals. But the distinction of the panel of readers who endorsed my decision to publish its materials no doubt acted as a formidable obstacle to public assaults upon it. It is difficult for someone, in the face of the evidence offered, to contradict the book's two main ideas: that Dr Velikovsky was unjustly treated, and that he maintains a set of propositions that must be seriously considered by the sciences and humanities. A reading of the book apparently positions one reasonably to annoy many scientists encountered in classrooms, professional meetings and cocktail parties.
When my attention was first drawn to the sociological and legalistic aspects of The Velikovsky Affair in 1962, my interest in the substantive problems of catastrophism and uniformitarianism, or revolutionism and evolutionism, was that of a charmed spectator. However it was not long before a question began persistently to intrude upon my mind: 'Was there only misguidance and foolishness in the jungle-buried history of catastrophist thought or was there lurking in it an alternative model of cosmogony? ' I have pursued now for over a decade the substance of what, for lack of a better term, I sometimes call 'holocene cosmogony' and at other times 'revolutionary primevalogy, ' and am much more committed intellectually to Dr Velikovsky's approach than I was when this material was first published.
With the encouragement afforded by others who were travelling the same route, I have achieved a measure of confidence in a two-part reciprocal answer: there is no 'fact' in the great and varied growth of today's science that is 'true' enough to block a complete cosmogonic model that is antithetical to uniformitarianism; there is enough of 'fact' to supply the construction of a revolutionist model.
Dozens of pertinent incidents have marked my association with the realm of Velikovsky politics and science over the years. One of the neatest, and of course indirect and noncommittal, testimonials to the validity of the present book occurred lately. The new edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has recently appeared. In its vast uniformitarian and evolutionist terrain there is set a biographical article upon Velikovsky, which I discovered to be on the whole acceptable in the general frame of the Encyclopedia. Nevertheless, two years or so later, Lawrence K. Lustig, the Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia's Book of the Year, was possessed to write an article there containing an orthodox, negative pronunciamento upon Velikovsky in the course of a general attack upon pseudoscience. I wrote to Dr Lustig, decrying his position; he replied without retracting his position by as much as a centimetre.
Yet, on the same day as the proposal to publish the present book arrived from Sphere Books, Ltd, in England, there arrived also a letter from Dr Lustig, now Editor-in-Chief of a large, new encyclopedia-in-the-making at Princeton, New Jersey. He asked me to write for the encyclopedia the articles on 'Freedom, ' 'Freedom of Religion, ' and 'Freedom of Speech. ' If this story may be taken as a compliment to integrity of the present work, it may also be heartening to those scholars, young and old, who fear that their advocacy of the philosophical principles of the book would deny them certain fruits of their long and arduous studies and careers.
Professor William Mullen and I have separately published articles 'indexing in advance' the fallout of Velikovsky's ideas upon the many academic disciplines . In the politics of exploiting this fall-out, the scholar-aspirant or scholar-turncoat can be shown two paths. For the cautious soul, who would evade controversy and is shy of ridicule, it will be relatively easy, now that many barriers are down, to introduce revolutionary hypotheses into scientific areas where the ruling order is evolutionary, provided that one avoids citing the works of Velikovsky and his school. One can, for example, speak of a revolutionary turn of mind on the part of homo sapiens without mentioning Velikovsky, and be applauded, as was Jaynes this past year . One can discuss the catastrophically deposited layers on the ocean bottoms as has Worzel, with only a tiny escape hatch for 'the fiery end of bodies of cosmic origin'[ 5]. One need not cite Isaacson , either, in disposing of the century-old concept of the Greek 'Dark Ages, ' especially since Isaacson does not exist, it being the nom de plume of a young scholar in fear for his career; one might criticize the concept without mentioning Velikovsky, given the new climate of thought.
A scholar can play safe in elaborating the evidence for hundreds of hypotheses in the Velikovskian literature that are already clearly stated and buttressed by evidence, and do so without mentioning him and with the indulgence of authorities who are ordinarily fanatic about the citation of sources. Scholars may now indulge in the heady alcohol of revolutionary theory, so to speak, provided that they label their brew as medicinal because, after all, the police are in cahoots, if indeed they have not already taken to drink themselves. There comes to mind the chemical geologist and Nobel prize winner, Harold Urey, who has on occasion reprimanded Velikovsky's supporters even though he has himself speculated that errant celestial bodies might be the great age-breakers in geological morphology and paleontology  (just as the ancients said that the ages were made and broken by the birth and death of the planetary gods).
Alternatively credit may be given where credit is due. A scholar may virtuously confess his research sources, hoping that the courts for criminals such as he will soon be too crowded for him to have to worry about being brought to trial for a long time, trusting that before that time occurs the rapidly changing climate of belief will have transformed his crime into a propriety.
When will this Great Day befall? By 1973, a decade after The Velikovsky Affair was first published, his group was cheered by the news that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) would stage a symposium upon his work. On February 25, 1975, the symposium took place before the greatest audience that this convention of the largest American scientific organization produced. A full volume about the activities preceding the symposium, of its proceedings, and of its aftermath would be a worthy objective of a sociologist of science; it is yet to be written. However, the two works alluded to at the beginning of this essay have already appeared, the one sharply anti-Velikovsky and the other just as strongly pro-Velikovsky. Both works related mostly to the substantive theories about the Venus and Mars scenarios that had been presented in Worlds in Collision .
Without presenting a mass of evidence, it would be improper for me to pass judgement here on the complicated hassle. I shall, however, go so far as to say that the reader of this book will experience few surprises should he happen finally to hear the full story. All the actors who were involved, both pro and con, including the group actors - the AAAS and the press - performed true to type.
The Scientific establishment, I should add, was now more subtle in preserving proper forms and a correct public posture - as if they had read the present book and were trying to conduct themselves accordingly. There was even some familiarity with Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision evident among the five panel-members (I include the Moderator) who opposed Velikovsky, he standing alone. As it developed, the establishment advocates were in a state of 'partial assimilation; ' so Professor Harold Lasswell has termed the process by which a political revolution like the French or Russian is in part absorbed by its conservative opponents as a defensive measure.
Indeed here was an interesting development. Little cordiality was exhibited among the panelists. And no happiness was displayed at exploring new realms of scientific inquiry. But apparently, without admitting so much, the critics of Velikovsky were being forced to move into combat upon his terrain. Science as a whole cannot help but benefit from this. For, as Adam Smith long ago pointed out, private competition may result in public gain. Velikovsky has enlarged the scientific marketplace, J. S. Mill's marketplace of ideas, by designing a new product. So we encounter the first halting steps of the so-called 'hard sciences' to deal with the 'soft' materials of legends, myth, psychology, archaeology, and history.
Scientists cannot any longer remain specialists and hope to deal for more than a moment in this marketplace with its changed conditions. I recall the weeks of intensive study that Velikovsky put in, not long ago, to master several points of chemistry for an article in reply to chemistry Professor Albert Burgstahler. Hence, we should add that the same is true of the 'soft' scientists - the Graves, the Schliemanns, the Freuds, the Jungs, the Campbells and the Eliades: these must treat of oceanography, geophysics, and celestial dynamics.
Also, and merely as one of 'the halt leading the blind, ' I would suggest that scientists and scholars repair to the philosophical foundations of science and humanism upon which the disciplinary structures rest; upon reading and reviewing Plato, Hegel, Dewey, Bridgman and the like, and understanding the critical decisions of Galileo, Newton, Marx-Engels, Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and the like, they may prepare new footings and erect new structures. The history of science and natural history are composed of psycho-social-empirical problems, inextricably intertwined, approachable by a science that is neither 'hard' nor 'soft, ' but malleable. If few persons can master learning of such scope and depth, does not such learning then constitute a principal goal for that vaunted 'collective enterprise, ' science?
It is not that the broader view will only help understand and give support to Velikovsky's work; the broader view is also needed to criticize it adversely. I do not refer to his manner and style as worthwhile targets. His writings are vigorously assertive. He does not indulge in the polite and evasive mannerisms of most social scientists and humanists. Nor can he rightly employ mathematics where the variables cannot be fixed or the data measurably assembled. He has granted that he is dealing in hypotheses - and what empirical scientist is not?
I mean that should one reasonably and incredulously ask: 'Is there nowhere an anti-Velikovsky treatise of serious consequence? ' the answer, regrettably, is still 'no. ' Not in general nor even in a special discipline such as astrophysics or archaeology. Thousands of scientists and scholars have impugned his work. A few have stepped up to bat against him or one of his team: they put on airs; they dance about; they come up unprepared; they take blundering swipes at the ball; they strike out. When all is done, they say that it was not a real professional ballgame.
In two cases major intellectual projects have been directed against Velikovsky. The aforesaid Cornell Press book was promptly shredded by the aforesaid special issue of Kronos. The second attack, indirectly launched to contradict Velikovsky and not even mentioning him, came earlier; it was Hamlet's Mill by G. de Santillana and H. von Dechand ; it concentrated upon mythology and the earliest scientific knowledge; its structure is mysterious; it is useful largely because it indeed goes to show that proto-historic mankind could be disciplined and scientific, and that mythology everywhere derives from the behaviour of the planets. Both books received ample support. Both are being cannibalized by the revolutionists, who are resource-starved and have become quite adapted to feeding upon the evidence and criticism offered by their opponents.
Writing at end of 1977, a historian of science, A. M. Paterson, declared :
Actually, the battle is over. Dr Velikovsky has emerged the victor because his scientific hypotheses that there have been physical planetary catastrophes in historical times has been proven to have enormous predictive power. For example, a few from very, very many may be listed: Radio noise from Jupiter, strong charge on Jupiter (1953); Earth's extensive magnetosphere (1956); an extensive magnetic field in the solar system extending to Pluto (1946); the Sun is charged (1950); Venus is very hot, has a heavy atmosphere, and was disturbed in its rotation and may have an anomalous rotation (1950); Mars' atmosphere contains quantities of argon and neon (1945); Mars is moon-like, battered and geologically active (1950); there have been many reversals of Earth's magnetic poles (1950); Some of Earth's petroleum was deposited only a few thousand years ago (1950).
And successful deductions about the Moon: Hydrocarbons, carbides, and carbonates will be found (July 2 and July 21, 1969); strong remanent magnetism in rocks (May 19, 1969); pockets of radioactivity (March 14, 1967); excessive argon and neon in the regolith (leading to incorrect age estimate) (July 23, 1969); steep thermal gradient under the surface (July 2, 1969).
Perhaps Professor Paterson would be quick to agree that her first sentence was the hyperbole of an enthusiast. As she points out elsewhere in her article, 300 years of science may be used up in conflict over a great paradigm.
Furthermore, we have to contend with the possibility of real explosive warfare, occasioned by the inane and insane politics of the age, which would foreclose the warfare of science. Dr Velikovsky has been acutely aware of the threat of nuclear missiles. On the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate of philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, in 1974, he speculated that the threat to humanity as a whole could be traced to suppression of the memory of early catastrophes and the unconscious, typically neurotic urge of persons in power to recapitulate the terrible ancient scenes .
Here, however, we must assume that such a catastrophe will not occur. Then, if only because the present world, unlike the past, rushes into the resolution of issues, a vindication of Velikovsky's theories and hence a major shift in the ruling paradigm or model of science may take place in a fairly short period of time. The challenge of the revolutionary to the evolutionary view is sharp and clear, no matter what synthesis evolves in the end. There are now available, yet unassimilated to either model of the world, hundreds of studies of catastrophic import performed by uniformitarians who shrink from drawing appropriate conclusions. Hence when the philosophical and ideological barriers are dropped, and an archway of revolutionary theory is erected over the cleared roadway, empirical studies will enter in veritable troops. The changeover-time from one to another model of holocene and early human history might not be long.
1. Isaac Asimov et al., Scientists Confront Velikovsky, (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977).
2. Velikovsky and Establishment Science, Vol. III, no. 2 (1977). Kronos (Glassboro State College, Glassboro, N. J., U. S. A.) and The Society for Interdisciplinary Studies, which published the SIS Review (c/ o T. B. Moore, Central Library, Hartlepool, Cleveland, Eng.) carry continuously information on the controversies surrounding Immanuel Velikovsky, as well as publishing articles by him and associated scholars on substantive concerns of revolutionary primevalogy.
3. Mullen, 'The Center Holds' in Velikovsky Reconsidered, by the editors of Pensée (Abacus, 1978), p. 239-49; A. de Grazia, 'The Coming Cosmic Debate in the Sciences and Humanities, ' in Nahum Revel, ed., From Past to Prophesy: Velikovsky's Challenge to Conventional Beliefs, Proceedings of the Symposium held at the Saidye Bronfman Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, January 10-12, 1975.
4. Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977).
5. J. L. Worzel, 'Extensive Deep Sea Sub-Bottom Reflections Identified as White Ash, ' Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 43: 349-55, March 15, 1959, 355; B. Heezen, Ewing, and Ericson, 'Significance of the Worzel Deep Sea Ash, ' ibid, 355-61.
6. Israel Isaacson, 'Applying the Revised Chronology, ' Pensée, IV: 5-20 (1974).
7. 'Cometary Collisions and Geological Periods, ' Nature 242: 32 (March 2, 1973).
8. With what seems a comic touch, the science fiction author and popular science writer, Isaac Asimov, was brought in, very much after the fact, to introduce the book of the 'serious' scientists and the 'non-commercial' Cornell University Press. Also added was a paper of Professor Donald Morrison, that had been tempered by earlier heated encounters with Velikovsky's associates. Cf. R. E. Juergens, 'On Morrison, ' in Kronos, loc. cit., 113.
9. Boston: Gambit, 1969.
10. 'Velikovsky versus Academic Lag, ' in Velikovsky and Establishment Science, Op. cit., pp. 121-31, p. 126.
11. 'Cultural Amnesia, ' in Earl Milton, ed., Recollections of a Fallen Sky (Lethbridge, Can.: Lethbridge U. Press, 1978).