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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 4, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 'Heretic' scientist relies on ancient lore By Cbirtog Foley, l h> Lib SAN FRANCISCO Why are the undigested leaves tropical plants sometimes found in the stomachs of mammoths excavated from Siberian ice? Why have the skeletons of whales been discovered near the peaks, of mountain ranges? Why did the ancients in both hemispheres worship planetary gods? Russian-born amateur scientist I-mmanuel Velikovsky believes be has the answers, but for more than two decades now he has been snubbed, denounced and boycotted by the scientific establishment. It wasn't Velikovsky's theories that angered the professors so though they were heretical enough as the fact that thousands of their students swallowed them with an almost religious fervour, and saw the craggy, whitehaired scholar as a wronged genius., Outraged teachers forbade students to read Velikovsky's book, Worlds in Collison. America's leading astronomer, Dr. Harlow Shapley of Harvard, was stirred to attack the author as charlatan and fraud. Undismayed, Mr. Velikovsky went on to publish further controversial theories' about the origins of the universe in his books Ages in Chaos and Earth in Upheaval, which won him thousands more youthful fans. Worlds in Collision went on to 72 impressions, and Velikovsky became a wealthy man. But scientists coldly refused even to let him put in an appearance at their gatherings until this year. Now at last Velikovsky has been allowed to con- front leading historians and astronomers before a large audience at the 140th annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. No one is much the wiser, but for Velikovsky now nearmg 80 the hearing from America's top scientific organization marks another step forward in his struggle to be taken seriously. "My old enemies can no longer ignore my he says. "And young scientists are open-minded enough to hear me out." What is the Velikovsky version? Briefly, be believes that around 1SOO BC a fiery hunk of matter was torn, by some cosmic force, from the planet Jupiter. As it hurtled through the solar system it passed close to earth, causing a global disaster, before moving into fixed orbit around the sun as what we call today the planet Venus. It also scored a near-miss on Mars, causing ,that planet to come dangerously close to earth as .well, in about 800 BC. Again, the results were catastrophic: the poles were upset, the rate of rotation changed and the length of the day altered. The main thrust of this theory, which of course runs contrary to all modern scientific notions of the solar system, is to show that our earth was changed, not gradually, but by a series of planetary mishaps which also affected many life forms. Velikovsky questions evolutionary theory at some points, arguing that these immense catastrophes explain the sudden, mysterious disappearance of certain giant mammals, and those mountain-top .whale skeletons. To support his contentions, he has delved not only into the world of archaeological and palaeontological discovery "the evidence of bones and stones" but also into the great religions and legends of the past. As a physician, practising in pre-war Vienna, he came across a little-known Egyptian papyrus which puzzled him by its reference to an Apparent cosmic upheaval in ancient times. That was the start of Velikovsky's life.long obsession. "My view is first a he says, "not a theory. It is built upon a study of human testimony as preserved in the heritage of all ancient civilizations. Should not a thinking man pause and wonder why men all over the world worshipped planetary gods In Ancient times? Why were temples erected to them, even human sacrifices As evidence for the birth of Venus, Velikovsky cites a Chinese document of 1500 BC which speaks of Jupiter "expelling an object to send it reeling around the sun." In the same period, he notes, the Book of Exodus tells us that the earth was struck by "fire mingled with hall." Other Judaic, Babylonian and Hindu texts are quoted as corroboration, while at the same time Velikovsky supports his case with evidence from fossils, and carbonated rocks and meteorites. To back up his case for the near-collision of the earth and Mars, which he believes altered the length of the day, he points out that several ancient civilizations appear to have changed their calendars at that time. Velikovsky claimed, before the AAAS scientists, that many of his assertions, based on analysis of historical documents, "had been recently proved correct by NASA probes of deep space. He had predicted, for example, that Jupiter emitted radio noises, that'the earth is surrounded by a magnetosphere, that Venus has a super-heated, 600- degree surface. NASA missions had confirmed his Late in February the American Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual convention in San Francisco where it gave its attention to the views of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky. A report by Walter Sullivan of the New York Times, was carried in The Herald on February 28. Intending to supplement this with extracts from the commentary of The London Observer's California correspondent, Charles >i Foley, and that of Robert Gillette in Science (March The Herald thought it would be interesting to also have a report from someone who had attended from Lethbridge. A joint response to The Herald's invitation for such a report was made by Dr. Ian Whishaw and Dr. Paul Lewis. Since it turned out to be a critique of Foley's piece, The Herald has decided to omit the extracts from the Science report and print both Foley's piece and the critique in their entirety. claim that the moon had thermal craters, aromatic hydrocarbons and a recently heated surface. Several features of Mars had also been "Indirectly said Vellkovsky, and he was recommending to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration "several tests not Included in their present Mars program." At one stage in his speech, the old scholar had to sit down for a moment's rest. But almost at once he picked lip the thread and continued, in his booming, heavily Russian accented voice. At the several score of his admirers in the audience at the St. Francis Hotel gave him a standing ovation. But the scientists who shared the platform with him remained as unconvinced as ever. Pro- fessor Peter Huber, a historian from Zurich, cited various ancient records .of an' eclipse 'which, he claimed, proved that planetary motions were just as they had been before'Velikovsky's near- collision. Astronomer Darral Mulholland of the University of Texas acknowledged that some of the planetary pirouettes posited by Velikovsky were "just plausible" but then declared that "resonances" between The Uthbridge HeraKi think PART IV PICTURE QUIZ 5 POINTS Montreal Expoe fans hope this young starting pitcher will have another good neaeon. Who IB he? HOW DO YOU RATE? II IN POtott TOf SCOUT 71 It 10 pMntt 61 w 70 pokm Mr. or UirtuT f T tfmmt FAMILY DISCUSSION QUESTION Should teachers be allowed to strike? Why or why not? YOUR NEWS QUIZ PART I NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL Give yourself 10 points for each correct answer. 1 The military government of headed by President Idl Amin, crushed an attempted coup. a-Chile D-Uganda c-Greece 2 The British government ordered tighter security for the royal family after an attempt was made to kidnap Princess (CHOOSE ONE: Anne. Mar- 3 After helicopter landed in Chinese terri- tory, Peking-charged the three-man crew with espionage. a-a Soviet b-an Indian c-a United States 4 Shaheen Natural Resources Company announced plans for the construction of a second oil re- finery at Come-By-Chance, (CHOOSE ONE: Prince Edward Island, 5 Canada won the 1974 world curling champion- ship. True .or False? PART II WORDS IN THE NEWS Take 4 points for each word that you can match with its correct meaning. 1.....dissent 2.. ...parry 3.....parley 4.....parlance 5.....perilous a-conference fa-disagree c-wayof speaking d-dangerous, risky e-ward off or evade PART III NAMES IN THE NEWS Take '5 points for names that you can correctly match with the dues. 1.....Rene Matte 2.....Alastalr Oilleepie 3.....Phil EspoBito 4.....Andre Lacrcix 6.....Michael Meighen a-Trade Minister b-centre, Jersey (Knights c-new Progressive Conservative na- tional president d-Socitl Credit IIP for Chtmplain, Quebec Boston the rotation of and the earth's orbit Indicated that Venue had bamta Us preteat orbit for bUUoM of yean, But it was Dr. Carl Sagan, Cornell University astronomer, who delivered the uakindest blow by dismissing Velikovsky's claims that apace raiattoM are proving him right with the blunt statement: "Where Velikovsky showed imagination, he has been proved wrong; where he has been found right, other workers have predicted the same things for the right reasons." Velikovsky himself appeared quite unshaken. He returned to the podium after'' each new onslaught to defend his work and accuse his attackers of bias. Why had he been so correct so often in his prognostications? There was no mystery. "It is a natural fallout from a single central idea that is, the understanding of the myths and documents of the ancients." He hoped that the AAAS symposium had brought "retarded recognition" of the fact that more could be achieved by reading, meditating and testing than by name-calling; and he was not about to change a single sentence in books. Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky Foley charged with biased reporting By Dr. Ian Whishaw and Dr. Paul Lewis, U of L Bruins 41-74 VEC, Inc. STUDENTS Practice Examination! Valuable Reference Material for Exams. ANSWERS ON REVERSE PAGE The article by Charles Foley is an example of poor reporting, characterized by biased and distorted rhetoric, factual errors and serious omissions. We will deal with each of these in turn. These factors conspire to leave the reader with a conception of Velikovsky as a crank, his hypothesis as ridiculous and the AAAS symposium as having refuted them both. Foley's article warrants a detailed commentary since it is representative of the quality of reporting which has characterized the "Velikovsky as it has come to be known over the past 25 years. In Foley's title, Velikovsky is referred to as an heretic: he is. The presently accepted theories of science were all heretical views at one time views which dissented from previously widely held doctrine. It is primarily through the heretical scientists the Galileos, Darwins, Freuds, and Paulings, etc., that science changes, modifies and criticizes itself. Note also that heretics need not always be right to improve science, they need only to cause scientists to re-examine theories which have been allowed to achieve the status of dogma. it is misleading to suggest that Velikovsky relies on ancient lore: he also uses psychoanalytic technique, and and relies on published data in the fields of geology, astronomy, biology, paleontology, religion, mythology, chemistry, and so on. We invite readers to examine the rest of Foley's article carefully for biased rhetoric before reading further, and to compare their findings with ours, given below. Velikovsky is variously referred to as an "amateur "white haired "old one with a "life long who "appeared quite unshaken" and "undismayed" by the attacks on his works and who "accused his attackers of bias" after each "onslaught." He is characterized as one whose ideas are "swallowed" by unsophisticated students who adopt them with a "religious fervor" in the face of "outraged teachers." Books bring "thousands more youthful fans." Velikovsky is finally "given a hearing" to present his "version" which "of course runs contrary to all modern scientific notions of the solar system." Ye gods, Velikovsky is also "craggy" and has a "booming, heavily Russian-accented voice." Mixed with the biased rhetoric is an amazing collection of factual errors which Foley apparently expects us to swallow, possibly with religious fervor. These are significant not only because they are errors, but because they reflect on IWI familiarity with Velikovsky. More generally, they reflect the inability of the press to serve the public well in the area of scientific reporting. (1) Undigested leaves were found in the mouths, not the stomachs, pf some mammoths. (2) Velikovsky speculates not at all on the ori- gins of the universe in Ages in Chaos. or in Earth in Upheaval; the former deals with Egyptian history and its chronology, and the latter with the geological and paleontological history of the earth. (3) Velikovsky is not a wealthy maQ except in the depth and breadth of his knowledge, and in his amazing capacity to recall detail (volumes, dates, authors and so (4) Velikovsky confronted leading historians and as- tronomers. The panelists and their fields, in addition to Velikovsky, were J. D. Mulholland C. Sagan N. Storer P. Huber and I. Mickelson (5) The comet Venus was torn from Jupiter by some cosmic force around 1500 B.C. Velikovsky suggested that the comet fissioned from Jupiter, but stated that the time of this event could have occurred well before 1500 B.C. (6) Velikovsky came across the Ipuwer papyrus while practising as a physician in pre-war Vienna. Velikovsky became aware of the Ipuwer papyrus in the United States in 1940, after completing a book on Freud and his dreams which was later published as Oedipus and Akhnaton. (7) Velikovsky questions evolutionary theory. No so. Velikovsky suggests that worldwide catastrophes have provided sudden mass extinctions which have accelerated organic evolution, and that among the thermal and chemical consequences of the catastrophes were massive increases in mutation rates among the surviving organisms. (8) The surface erpature of Venus was 600, degrees. In fact, Velikovsky' stated that Venus was "very hot under the clouds, nearly incandescent, and gives off The temperature of Venus later was found to be over 750 degrees Kelvin (477 degrees Centigrade or 890 degrees (9) Several ancient civilizations appear to have changed their calendars at the time of the Mars-Earth catastrophes. What struck Velikovsky was that every major civilization he examined appears to have altered its calendars at that time. Furthermore, this is discussed in his books, not in his paper to the AAAS. (10) Velikovsky claimed that many of his assertions had been proven correct by space research. The inference here is that the claim is unverified ,and is solely Velikovsky's opinion. In fact, hv many others, including Hess, Bargmann, Motz and Ferte. Even Velikovsky's antagonist, Mulholland, stated that he would admit that Velikovsky had been first to suggest a thermal gradient in the lunar surface, a prediction which surprised everyone else. (11) Professor Huber, an historian from Zurich, cited various ancient records of an eclipse. Actually Huber (a statistician) cited a record of 37 eclipses but admitted that, of the three pertinent eclipses, the location of the one full eclipse was not known. (12) Foley quotes Velikovsky as saying, with regard to the accuracy of his prognostications: "It is a natural fallout from a single central idea that is, the understanding of the myths and documents of the, ancients." This is a serious distortion of what Velikovsky actually said serious because a written copy of Velikovsky's address was available to the press, and serious because quotes attributed to Velikovsky all too often in the past have proven to be distortions. The actual quote: "There is no mystery. My advanced claims are a 'natural fallout from a single central idea', in the words of one student of the affair. Reading my work is a prerequisite for understanding the way I reach my conclusions." Reading the press copy of Velikovsky's address is a prerequisite for being able to quote properly, and to assign quotes to their proper sources. The distortion is also serious because after searching the literature we found Foley's quote was apparently plagiarized from a report by Norman Melnick in the Feb. 26 issue of the San Francisco Examiner where was initially incorrectly cited. (13) Velikovsky is not about to change a single sentence in his books. No author can do this unless preparing a revised edition, which still leaves the original edition unchanged. Moreover, the statement presents Velikovsky as one who, stubbornly, will not change his mind. What Velikovsky actually said was "nobody can change a single sentence in my books." Clearly he meant that there was no compelling evidence to force a reinterpretation of his hypothesis based on the data he presented; and that no rewording, distortion or misquotation of his sentences changes what he actually wrote. (14) America's leading astronomer, Dr. Harlow Shapley, was stirred to "attack the author as charlatan and fraud" apparently in response to seeing thousands of students swallowing Velikovsky's theories with an almost religious fervor. In fact, Shapley, now dead, attacked Worlds in Collision prior to its publication, and without reading the copy Velikovsky (15) Foley infers that support for Velikovsky's theory comes primarily from gullible youth, and that scholars and scientists are wholly opposed. In fact, most of Velikovsky's supporters are eminent -scholars, and much support for Velikovsky's hypothesis comes from the area of scholarly research. Scholars supporting Velikovsky include de Grazia, Jrgens and Stecchini, authors ot the Velikovsky Affair: H. H. Hess, late chairman of the Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences; C. F. A. Schaeffer, professor of archeology, College de France; Sergei Vsekhsvyatskii, Observatory, U.S.S.R.; and many others, some of whom will speak at the forthcoming symposium, Velikovsky and Cultural Amnesia at the University of Lethbridge, May 9 and 10, "l974 (16) According to Foley, a few score of Velikovsky's admirers rose to applaud him at the end of his presentation. The ballroom at the St. Francis held 1500 (not, incidentally, 500, as reported in it was full and people were standing along three walls. From our vantage point we could see at least half the audience standing to applaud what clearly had been an excellent presentation. In addition to these errors of 'commission, Foley executes several important errors of omission. (1) No mention is made of the presentation of Michelson, who provided a theoretical basis for the way in which electromagnetic forces could be interchanged with the earth's rotational speed and also influence its axis of inclination. These formulations are significant, since the earliest attacks on Velikovsky were based largely on the presumption of the impossiblity of such forces and their influence. (2) No mention was made of Storer's presentation, which attempted to rationalize "The Velikovsky Affair." (3) No mention was made of Velikovsky's detailed and scholarly rebuttals to the presentations of Huber, Sagan -and Mulholland. These rebuttals did not constitute accusing "his attackers of bias" as Foley suggests, but were arguments to the issues raised and were accompanied by the citation of references and quotations from published literature. Perhaps Foley's greatest error is his conclusion that "no one is much the wiser." We are convinced, after attending the conference, and reviewing our tape recordings of it, that the freedom for imaginative scholars to present their views without unwarranted ridicule and scorn must be defended vigorously now as in 1900, or in the times of Freud, Darwin, ;