Velikovsky Affair

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Velikovsky Affair

Transcript of Velikovsky Affair




    Alfred de Grazia, Editor

    With contributions by

    Ralph JuergensLivio C. StecchiniAlfred de Grazia

    Immanuel Velikovsky

    Copyright Alfred de Grazia, 1966, 1978. All rights reserved.


    Introduction to the Second Edition, by Alfred de Grazia

    Introduction to the First Edition, by Alfred de Grazia

    1. Minds in Chaos, by Ralph E. Juergens

    2. Aftermath to Exposure, by Ralph E. Juergens

    3. The Inconstant Heavens, by Livio C. Stecchini

    4. Cuneiform Astronomical Records andCelestial Instability, by Livio C. Stecchini

    5. Astronomical Theory and Historical Data,by Livio C. Stecchini

    6. The Scientific Reception System, by Alfred de Grazia

    7. Additional Examples of Correct Prognosis, by ImmanuelVelikovsky

    APPENDIX I - On Recent Discoveries ConcerningJupiter and Venus

    APPENDIX II - Velikovsky Discredited:A Textual Comparison

    (Note: English spelling is used in this edition of 1978.)

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    Alfred de GraziaJanuary 1978

    We dedicate this book to people who are concerned about theways in which scientists behave and how science develops. Itdeals especially with the freedoms that scientists grant orwithhold from one another. The book is also for people who areinterested in new theories of cosmogony - the causes of theskies, the earth, and humankind as we see them. It is, finally, abook for people who are fascinated by human conflict, in thiscase a struggle among some of the most educated, elevated, andcivilized characters of our times.

    These lines are being written a few weeks after the launching ofa carefully prepared book attacking the growing position ofImmanuel Velikovsky in intellectual circles [1]. The attack wasfollowed promptly by a withering counter-attack in a specialissue of the journal, Kronos [2]. The events reflect a generalscene which, since the first appearance of this volume, has beenperhaps more congenial to the temperament of warcorrespondents than of cloistered scholars.

    The philosophical psychologist, William James, who onceproposed sport as a substitute for warfare, might as well haveproposed 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 intowarfare are exercised. In the present controversy, the minds ofthe combatants must also carry into the fray images of a distantpast when the world was ruined by immense disasters, whetheror 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

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    the controversy over Velikovskys ideas is not only the systemused by science to change itself - which is largely the subject ofthis book - but also the substantive model of change to beemployed by future science - whether is shall be comprehendedmainly as revolutionary and catastrophic or as evolutionary anduniform.

    The controversy has had many striking facets. One has been thelarge participation of the public. It continues to increase.Velikovsky has managed to talk to people about mythology,archaeology, astronomy, and geology, without doing injusticeto those disciplines, in an amazing and unprecedented manner.Socrates, Aristotle, Galileo, Freud, and Einstein - to name a fewthinkers who were implicated in crowd phenomena - were notpublic 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 hewas a foreigner with a Russian accent, a psychiatrist,unequivocably a Jew, denounced by some of the most respectedscientists of America and Britain, unbending in his person andin his allegiance to science and in refusing every opening forsupport from demagogic or religious quarters: these facts hardlydisturbed the favourable reception granted him by a largepublic.

    That he is a charismatic figure is obvious: fourteen hundredpeople attended his talk and awarded him a standing ovation ata critical scientific symposium in San Francisco in 1974. Butcharisma is a bit of jargon; the question remains why.Although I must reserve the answer until another occasion, Iwould here suggest that his ideas have represented all the legit-imate anxieties about present-day knowledge that educatedpeople possess, whether it be their own knowledge or that oftheir scientific tutors.

    I have lived with The Velikovsky Affair for fifteen years. OftenI have been asked how I came to be involved. Sometimes thequestion comes from my colleagues, who, like myself, havewondered how a million, perhaps two million, serious readerscan find that a book like Worlds in Collision makes sense,while a great many scientists and scholars cannot even come togrips with the book, turn away from it angrily, and irritably

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    consign the whole lot of favourable readers to the ranks ofreligious revivalists who have received The Word.

    But there was little heroic, charismatic, revelatory, or evenextraordinary about my initiation. The year 1950, which sawthe publication of Worlds in Collision, was a busy one in myyounger life; I had several infants, a new professorship, and amore than passing engagement with psychological operations inthe Korean War, then raging. So the scandal over the bookssuppression and success left only a faint scratch upon my mind.

    However, in 1962, when I was publishing and editing theAmerican Behavioral Scientist magazine in Princeton, Dr LivioStecchini, a historian of science also resident there, spoke to memore than once about a man named Dr Velikovsky who alsolived in Princeton and had been victimized by the scientificestablishment. I listened without enthusiasm to Stecchini, forthe annals of science and publishing, like politics, are crowdedwith cases that are falsely or ineptly brought up, of hopelesstheories trying to engage public attention, of feelings ofpersecution.

    Then, one evening, as I was saying my goodbyes at the home ofmy brother, I espied a book entitled Oedipus and Akhnaton, byone Immanuel Velikovsky. The residual stimuli precipitated agestalt of curiosity. I borrowed it. I read it from cover to cover,brooking no minor interruption. I thought that it was a master-piece of true detective literature (a judgement that I think isnow confirmed), and telephoned Dr Stecchini to arrange ameeting.

    As I talked with Dr Velikovsky - an impressive experience in apersons life - I was introduced to his archive of materials onthe case. It was astonishingly rich and ordered. I concludedafter several long meetings and much reading among hismaterials that the history of science had few, if any, cases thatwere so well documented. I decided to devote a special issue ofthe American Behavioral Scientist to The Velikovsky Affair.

    It was this issue, finally appearing is September 1963 afterprolonged, gruelling, and enlightening sessions with DrVelikovsky and my co-authors, Ralph Juergens and Livio

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    Stecchini and after long hours spent amidst the archive ofVelikovsky itself, that formed the basis for the present book. Iwould not go as far as some commentators in saying that thebooks brought the great controversy to life when the causeseemed lost; my concept of history is more Tolstoian. Still, theresponse to the issue was immediate. Eric Larrabee, a publicist,who had a long-standing contract with the Doubleday Companypublishers to write a book on the subject, was spurred topublish an article in Harpers magazine about the Velikovskycase. The American Behavioral Scientist issue was expanded,with new contributions by Juergens and Stecchini, andpublished by University Books two years later. (In the presentedition, Dr Stecchini has revised and added much new materialto his contributions.)

    With notable exceptions, to be described in the pages to come,the book was well received. It was resented by many in theunderground of science, which includes the mysterious realmsof foundations and government agencies. There, any associationwhatsoever with Dr Velikovsky is likely to provokediscrimination and reprisals. But the distinction of the panel ofreaders who endorsed my decision to publish its materials nodoubt acted as a formidable obstacle to public assaults upon it.It is difficult for someone, in the face of the evidence offered, tocontradict the books two main ideas: that Dr Velikovsky wasunjustly treated, and that he maintains a set of propositions thatmust be seriously considered by the sciences and humanities. Areading of the book apparently positions one reasonably toannoy many scientists encountered in classrooms, professionalmeetings and cocktail parties.

    When my attention was first drawn to the sociological and le-galistic aspects of The Velikovsky Affair in 1962, my interest inthe substantive problems of catastrophism anduniformitarianism, or revolutionism and evolutionism, was thatof a charmed spectator. However it was not long before aquestion began persistently to intrude upon my mind: Wasthere only misguidance and foolishness in the jungle-buriedhistory of catastrophist thought or was there lurking in it analternative model of cosmogony? I have pursued now for overa decade the substance of what, for lack of a better term, Isometimes call holocene cosmo