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282) Velikovsky’s controversy

Ludwik Kowalski; 2/25/2006
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

The CMNS controversy is certainly not the first and not the last in physical sciences. In 1950 Immanuel Velikovsky hypothesized that Venus became a planet about 5000 years ago. This happened when big chunks of matter, presumably ejected from Jupiter, were progressively captured into a nearly circular orbit. As far as I know, the flame of conflict created by the publication of Vilekowsky’s books extinguished itself, little by little. I hope that the CMNS controversy will not end in the same way. In 2005 a large archive of Velikovsky’s papers and correspondence was donated to Princeton University Library. Will physical evidence supporting his hypothesis be found by future generations of scientists? I do not think so. And I hope that the CMNS controversy will not end in the same way in which the Venus controversy ended. But our fascination with CMNS topics might also become a forgotten episode. The only way to avoid this would be to find at least one truly reproducible effect in the next ten or twenty years. Most currently active researchers will no longer be available after that time.

Here is what one proponent of Velikovsky’s theory, Dr.E.W. Mac-Kie, published in the British scientific journal, the New Scientist (January 11, 1973). Mac-Kie was referring to the unjustified negative reaction of mainstream scientists to Vilekovsky’s hypothesis. “. . . Nevertheless, such understandable skepticism hardly explains the violence of the reaction against the book and its author, from certain quarters of the scientific establishment in the United States in the years following its publication. So outrageous were some aspects of this reaction when compared with the strictly rational ethics which is supposed to govern the scientist in his evaluation of new work that the situation eventually attracted the attention of psychologists. An entire special issue of the American Behavioral Scientist (September 1963) was devoted to this extraordinary story and this material was later expanded into a book, “The Velikovsky Affair (1966).”

And here is what somebody wrote about all this in wikipedia: “The plausibility of the theory was rejected practically unanimously by the physics community. Both the cosmic chain of events, and the fact that they left no known trace on Earth except as myths, were described as simply contradicting the basic laws of physics. More recently, the absence of supporting material in ice-core studies (such as the Ice-3 and Vostok cores) has removed any basis for the proposition of a global catastrophe of the proposed dimension within the later Holocene period.

Supporters contend that a few of Velikovsky's predictions have been validated. Amongst the most prominent is the prediction that Venus would be very hot. This argument has been countered by noting that Venus is indeed very hot, but not at all for the reasons proposed by Velikovsky. Critics further claim that the vast majority of Velikovsky's predictions turned out to be far from correct. His supporters have continued to claim counter-refutations, but space-probe results do not support the proposal.

In fact, Velikovsky started from myths and traditions of ancient peoples and cultures, postulated that they are based on actual events, including a chain of worldwide global catastrophes, and then he constructed an account to physically explain these events. He made no attempt to analyze his theory from a physical point of view — he was not a physicist — (a fact underscored by the content of Cosmos Without Gravitation) and often remarked that if they contradict the theories of physicists, then the physicists must correct their theories.”

It is important to be aware of an essential difference between the hypothesis made by Velikovsky and the experimental discovery announced by Fleischmann and Pons. Velikovsky's ideas were developed to produce a scientific basis for several Biblical episodes. They were only speculations, not a theory derived mathematically from the known laws of nature. Velikovsky was not a physical scientist; he was a medical doctor and a biblical scholar. Fleischmann and Pons, on the other and, were recognized experts in the area of physical science in which the discovery was made.

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