Velikovsky: Worlds in Rectal Defilade

Perhaps the most extreme version of the persistent astronomy crackpot theory is Velikovsky's whole "Worlds in Collision" business. The basic idea behind this is that in Earth's recent past— that is, within the last several thousand years or so— there have been global catastrophes caused by objects in the Solar System moving around. Among other things, Velikovsky's ideas suggest that Venus was originally a comet (...yes...), that was ejected from Jupiter (...yes...), and migrated around the Solar System, having close passes with Earth and Mars, thereby causing the catastrophes that Earth supposedly had in the past. His most famous (infamous?) book is Worlds in Collision.

Right.

The various movements around the Solar System that Velikovsky needs, on the timescales he needs them, require massive violation of things like conservation of angular momentum, if the orbits are purely gravitational. His response to that was, well, electric forces must be responsible for planetary orbits! I've already pointed out how utterly unphysical and batty the whole "electric universe" thing is in my previous post. The Velikovsky business makes no sense, because the physical model of the solar system it needs to work makes no sense.

There's another basic reason why we can be pretty sure that Velikovsky is wrong. That is, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that he might be right! His methodology for coming up with his model for the Solar System had absolutely nothing to do with science or scientific considerations. Rather, what he did was look at the myths of ancient cultures, and assumed that they were true— that is, when the myth said that there was a global catastrophe, there in fact was a global catastrophe. I would point out that this methodology, looking at ancient myths to determine natural history, is exactly the mythology used to come up with Young-Earth Creationism. As such, from a scientific point of view, there's absolutely no reason to pay any more attention to Velikovsky than there is to young-earth creationists. Trying to make a scientific refutation of it is like trying to explain the color blue in terms of musical theory.

So: Velikovsky's whole idea was based on non-scientific considerations, and as such isn't even worthy of debate on a scientific forum. Trying to shoehorn the physics to make it work requires resorting to the "electric universe" stuff that is crazy. And, as if that weren't enough, there's no evidence in the geologic record of the global catastrophes that Velikovsky was trying to "explain".

(So where do these ancient myths come from? If you've read the news for the last ten years, it's not very hard to imagine. Think of the people who lived through the east Asian tsunami in 2004— it's not very difficult to imagine somebody, especially somebody without the benefit of a world-wide media, believing that a global catastrophe had occurred after living through that! Flood myths are almost certainly so common in human cultures not because there ever was a global flood, but because there are floods, all the time, and sometimes they're really bad.)

Sadly, despite the fact that Velikovsky's ideas were ill-founded and have little or no connection to actual physics and astronomy, there remains a small fringe that think that the astronomy community is doing him a disservice by not taking him seriously. It's just like the electric universe business. Those of us in the "mainstream" are either deliberately hiding the truth, or are blinded by the dogma, and don't want to allow "outside" ideas to undermine the ideas that are the basis of our careers. Or, so they say. And, so, you can find books and websites out there saying that Velikovsky never got a fair hearing.

The truth is that Velikovsky has gotten way more attention and hearing than he ever deserved, at least as far as natural history is concerned. The fact that he wrote his stuff more than half a century ago, and I still feel some motivation to mention how wrong it is on this blog, indicates that his ideas have somehow garnered far more staying power than the ideas themselves would warrant.

30 responses so far

  • John McKay says:

    "Velikovsky has gotten way more attention and hearing than he ever deserved, at least as far as natural history is concerned."

    Did he deserve that attention in some other context? His modified chronology looks just as ridiculous to historians as his plasma universe looks to astrophysicists. Everything he touched outside his own field (psychology) was an embarrassment.

    • Bau Ur says:

      It's interesting that he was a consummate intellectual whose appeal to the public was partly due to his image as a defiant pariah of academia, an anti-inetellectual.

      I don't fault him for having wild and amateurish ideas. I only fault him for spending the next twenty years being completely pigheaded about it.

      I also fault MacMillan press for abandoning Velikovsky's book. As a text publisher they shouldn't have picked it up in the first place, but they didn't abandon it for sound editorial reasons. They backed off because they were threatened with boycotts by academics who wanted the book to die.

      Even the most fanciful or deranged nonsense should not be gagged by such means. Tiresome as the task is, the right thing to do is to just wait for stupidity to make its full appearance, and then skewer it. As Carl Sagan did Velikovsky's catastrophic history, later.

  • Siggy_G says:

    Even if some of Velikovsky's ideas partly triggered the early notions of the Electric Universe (EU) theory, his ideas are not representing EU theory as it stands today. For instance, EU theory isn't refuting that gravity is the dominating force in the Solar System.

    Wallace Thornhill, one of the main advocates of the theory, explains some of the misconceptions of the Electric Universe in this video:

    ( Link not allowed. YouTube search: Debunking Misconceptions of the Electric Universe )

    If you want to attempt to debunk the Electric Universe, please do it on other grounds than through Velikovsky's model(s).

  • rknop says:

    Siggy_G : you misunderstand.

    I'm not trying to denigrate the Electric Universe (EU) by associating it with Velikovsky.

    Rather, I'm trying to denigrate Velikovsky by pointing out that his ideas require the EU. EU is the already-known-to-be-wrong thing here, the need for which is one more nail in the coffin of Velikovsky's ideas.

  • Siggy_G says:

    Rob,

    If you think that the processes and physics described within the EU are about planets orbiting merely due to electrical forces, and no gravity, then you should read more into what the EU actually is about (as it's clearly not what you assume it is).

    http://www.electricuniverse.info/Introduction

  • Siggy_G says:

    I should specifically have added to my previous comment:

    "For too many years now cosmologists and astrophysicists have developed their models around a gravitycentric theory, as if electricity has no role in space. Nothing could be further from the truth. The electric universe/plasma cosmology theories do not seek to dismiss gravity, but to enhance our understanding of the universe by acknowledging the role that the far superior force of electricity plays not only here on Earth (as if by some unique miracle), but also throughout the cosmos. "

    http://www.plasmaresources.com/index.html#whatis

  • SLC says:

    There was a professor at the university where I did my graduate work who got his PhD in nuclear physics from Princeton. While there, he belonged to the same synagogue as did Velikovsky and had a number of conversations with him. His take was that he found Velikovsky to be a very nice man, very intelligent, and abysmally ignorant of physics. Oddly enough, Prof. Ken Miller said almost the same thing about William F. Buckley Jr. after his "debate" with Michael Behe on Firing Line, where biology is substituted for physics.

  • Siggy_G says:

    SLC: What can be said about Velikovsky is certainly that he did challenge the rigid system of the modern academica. He also highlighted the importance of daring to revisit established theories with an interdiciplinary approach, which has become more normal in later times (within various fields, such as plasma physics -> astrophysics).

    I wouldn't refute the importance of quantitave methods, experiments and mathematical follow-up, but in regards to forming hypotheses, one sometimes needs to think outside the box (the hypotheses may be tested/proven, falsified or will need modifications). Einstein's ideas formed before the math behind them, not the other way around like astrophysics seems to be restrained to these days. Observation and experiments are the key fields I would say, then the math follows.

  • rknop says:

    Siggy_G : you're completely full of it. The "daring to revisit established theories with an interdisciplinary approach" is a very, very interesting way of saying "making up crazy shit about something he had no clue about".

    It's also completely wrong to say that different fields of science don't inform each other. Nuclear physics informed astrophysics back in the early 20th century, as they were trying to figure out what powered the Sun. Before that, biology and geology informed astrophysics, as the timescales needed were far too long for the then-dominant model of what powered the Sun (gravitational contraction).

    And I have no idea where you got your comment about how astrophysics seems to form ideas from the math behind them before the ideas themselves. Do you really have any idea how these things work? It's generally all combined together. You can't separate the math from the ideas, because the math is what gives the ideas tangible weight. And, yes, sometimes the results of the math gives you a hint that's something wrong. That is what gave Planck the idea to try something then-crazy (quantization of light). The notion that "math gets in the way of ideas" is a vast misrepresentation of how modern science works. Math has proven to be the language of science. In physics, for the most part if you can't express your ideas mathematically then they cannot be tested and they just don't fit in.

  • By and large, defenders of Velikovsky almost invariably overlook the simple fact that there is no physical evidence on Earth commensurate with the recent planetary near-collisions described in Worlds in Collision. If Earth's rotation or axial tilt had been disturbed as Velikovsky described, then the oceans would have over-ridden the continents, for which there is not the slightest indication, such as a characteristic salt water signal in the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica. In 1950 J.B.S. Haldane broached this issue of the absence of relevant geologic evidence, as I point out in my "Top Ten Reasons Why Velikovsky Is Wrong About Worlds in Collision": "In his 1950 review of Worlds in Collision in New Statesman and Nation, J.B.S. Haldane, citing Swedish varves and Atlantic bottom cores, noted 'The data of geology absolutely negate the possibility of worldwide floods in the last 10,000 years'; but Velikovsky ignored this criticism when discussing Haldane's review in Stargazers and Gravediggers, pp. 199-202." When the ice core evidence from Greenland was marshalled against Velikovsky in 1984, many Velikovskians refused to accept the verdict and expended much effort to discredit it, esp. Prof. Lynn Rose in Kronos magazine, followed later by Charles Ginenthal in The Velikovskian. As I have been challenging Velikovskians since 1984 in vain: If Venus deposited so much debris in Earth's atmosphere 3500 years ago as to produce 40 years of darkenss, where is it? There is no sign of it anywhere on Earth: not on the ocean bottoms; not in the world's glaciers and ice caps; and not even in the Sea of Galilee.

  • Siggy_G says:

    Rob,

    As to your statement about Velikovsky “making up crazy shit about something he had no clue about” displays the exact same attitude as is being criticised in regards to some of mainstream science (currently and historically). If Velikovsky's ideas could be scientifically refuted so easily, why not just do that? But no, it was (is) followed by a flamming insulted response from scientists as to how someone outside a given field can dare to come here with another take on their theories.

    Velikovsky did attempt to revisit chronology and cosmology based on a different view and certain assumptions. He certainly "had a clue about" what he was doing (if you know his background work for the ideas), but the ideas didn't have enough scientific basis and could be refuted overall. I wonder if the established theory of dinosaur's extinction is inspired by Velikovsky's ideas? I'm not an "Velikovskian", but I'm just saying the man was onto something and should be allowed to try out a new take if he had suspicions of something being wrong with the consensus. It shouldn't be neccesary to burn someone on the stake for making wrong assumptions or not being able to fullfill a proposed model.

    Leroy Ellernberger: interesting to see you on board (unless it is someone using your name as a reference nick name). Have you watched David Talbott's documentary "Symbols of an Alien Sky" and it soon-to-come follow-up "The Cosmic Thunderbolt"? (can be found on YouTube) How is your take on these ideas?

    • Siggy_G: To trade on a famous song in "Man of LaMancha": I am I, Leroy Ellenberger, not "Ellernberger". My apologies for not replying sooner, but I have been off-line while my automobile was entombed in ice formed from the freezing rain that paralyzed St. Louis, Missouri, Monday, and I was unable until today to get to the library where I monitor e-mail.

      "[T]he established theory of dinosaur's extinction is inspired [NOT] by Velikovsky's ideas" but by model-specific physical evidence, esp., the global iridium signal in the K-T boundary layer that screamed "cosmic impact" to most scientists except for a minority who held out for basalt flood volcanism as the source for the iridium. According to the survey of planetary scientists by David Morrison in his "Velikovsky at Fifty" in Skeptic 2001; 9(1), Velikovsky did more to retard catastrophism than promote it, as with William K. Hartmann's model for the impact origin of our Moon.

      To the extent Velikovsky was motivated by the global existence of sky-combat myths, they can be explained by the Taurid-Encke Complex model proposed by the British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier in their 1982 book The Cosmic Serpent which envisions the origin of civilization and religion against a background of Earth's energetic, intermittent interaction with a disintegrating proto-Encke and its related debris: an assortment of cometary fragments and the several Taurid meteor streams all during the Holocene, i.e., the past 10,000 years or so. A case can be made that the 30 June 1908 Tunguska aerial blast in Siberia was part of this model. The most recent major episode of Taurid complex activity occurred in the 6th century A.D. which caused a global cooling event marked by reduced tree ring growth worldwide. This event and the evidence for it is reconstructed by Patrick McCafferty and Mike Baillie in their 2005 book The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology after this episode was previewed by Baillie in his 1999 Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets. Earth's interception of Taurid cometary debris, besides producing narrow tree ring growth, also produces a large ammonium signal that is measured in the Greenland ice cores.

      Concerning Dave Talbott's fantastical "Symbols of an Alien Sky", I am very familiar with his ideas and, while I have not viewed it in its entirety, I have studied his earlier "Remembering the End of the World" and my comments on it may be read in my "Remembering Nothing" by clicking on my name here. Several of my essays posted to the WWW criticize various aspects of Talbott's "Saturn Thesis" involving the "polar configuration" in which, during the "Golden Age", Saturn resided motionless at the north pole with Venus centered on Saturn while Mars oscillated annually back and forth between Venus and Earth. See my 11 May 1998 "The So-Called 'Descent of Mars'" posted at saturnian .org.

      However, a major problem with Talbott's research programme is that he is not playing with a full deck because his work, which was inspired by Velikovsky's impossible planetocentric cometary ideas in 1972, is totally uninformed by the more recent ideas about the origins of astro-mythology stemming from the astronomically feasible cometary model of Clube, Napier, Baillie, and their co-workers. But, even worse, Talbott ignores the evidence that refutes his insistence that within the memory of humankind the major planets were very close to Earth. Most interestingly, one of these refutations was developed by Robert W. Bass in April 1997 and posted to Talbott's own kronia-list. Bass's three-part "Samson Solution" showed that the orbits of the planets Talbott claims have changed recently have been as presently observed for many millions of years. Here are concluding excerpts from Parts 2 and 3:

      "In other words, using Kepler's Law in the form da/a = (2/3)[dT/T], and the fact that the year cannot have varied by more than 0.05 day, so that dT/T = 0.05/365.25, we find that during the past 400 million years the earth's mean distance from the Sun, call it a, cannot have varied, percentage wise, by more than da/a = 0.00009 = 0.0001 = 0.01 percent!"
      Robert Bass to kronia-l, "Samson Solution Part 2", April 29, 1997

      "In summary, the mutual relationships presently observed between the Sun, the Earth, its Moon, and Jupiter cannot have varied by more than 0.01 percent during the past 'several million years.' And according to the Titius-Bode empirical 'Law' . . . , Saturn's distal ratio to that of Jupiter has been least unstable if it is about 1.8, as presently observed. . . . The geophysical FACT that the Saturn Hypothesis has been _falsified_ by hard science is as certain a FACT as that Copernicus was correct about the earth moving around the Sun."
      Robert Bass to kronia-l, "Samsom Solution Part 3", April 29, 1997

      Recently, Talbott has been trading on the work of plasma scientist Tony Peratt in cataloging certain petroglyphs found worldwide that resemble the stick man plasma figures produced in the laboratory. Peratt believes the stick man petroglyphs were motivated by stupendous auroral displays that were seen thousands of years ago when, for a period of a century or so, the solar wind inexplicably blew about 100x stronger than at present. However, such an enhanced solar wind would have drastically affected the production of 10Be in the atmosphere, which is deposited in the Greenland ice cap by precipitation, and such behavior of the 10Be signal in the Greenland ice cores is not seen. Also, these petroglyphs are found on Easter Island which was not inhabitated as early as Peratt's theory implies. These facts would appear to refute Peratt; and if our ancestors witnessed such stupendous auroral displays as Peratt envisions, they could have been produced during a stupendous fireball storm out of the Taurid-Encke complex, as Mike Baillie has suggested--perhaps even in the 6th century A.D. when Easter Island WAS inhabited and the Celts feared sky-borne cometary prodigies who appeared on a time-table mimicking the return of a body on an Encke-like orbit.

      • Siggy_G: I am surprised at your hiatus since Feb. 1 from posting replies. While waiting for your return to this blog, let me provide additional support for my claim that Dave Talbott is "not playing with a full deck", since your query about my knowledge of his "Symbols of an Alien Sky" suggests your interest in the possible validity of his alternative, ne0-Velikovskian "Saturn thesis" with its "polar configuration". Keep in mind that Talbott never accepts any scientific evidence that contradicts his interpretation of ancient myths (such as the seasonless Golden Age) and symbols and he tends to ignore contradictory textual evidence (such as the Sun-God Tablet of Nabû-apla-iddina [BM91000] shown in The Saturn Myth, "The wheel of Shamash, held in place by a cord", p. 102, and featured in the "Symbols of an Alien Sky" video).

        The Greenland ice cores possess annual layers of deposition which under polarized light are naked-eye visible back 84,000 years. As Talbott maintained on talk.origins in July 1994 and on velikov-list in August 2007, he has no confidence in the integrity and accuracy of the ice cores asking how do we know that, say, 20,000 years of deposition were not melted during some cosmic cataclysm. We know the ice cores present a reliable record because the cores from all over the world possess a coherent record of various parameters, such as oxygen isotope variation in the ice itself, and the variations in climate preserved in the ice all during the Holocene matches that preserved in the tree ring records. Plus, a gross melting episode invoked by Talbott would have left an obvious signal in the appearance of the ice because ice formed from water has a different appearance than ice formed from snow and such a visual anomaly is not seen in the ice cores. Bottom line: There is no good reason to believe, as Talbott insists based solely on his interpretation of myth, that Earth had no seasons in some mythical "Golden Age".

        Velikovskian resistance from Lynn Rose and Charles Ginenthal (cited by Talbott in July 1994) to the validity of the ice core evidence against recent, global, interplanetary cataclysms has been compiled by Sean Mewhinney. His 1989 "Ice Cores and Common Sense", contra Rose, was first distributed as a monograph to 115 people before being published in Catastrophism & Ancient History 1990; XII(1) & XII(2). There is no evidence that Talbott ever read the copy sent to him; but his fellow "Saturnist" Dwardu Cardona heartily endorsed it in a July 1989 letter. Mewhinney's late-1990s "Minds in Ablation", contra Ginenthal, is accessible on the WWW at pibburns.com.

        Additional criticism used to be contained in David Talbott's entry in Wikipedia, but it was deleted. Here is a sampling:

        ". . . Talbott's unorthodox, radical interpretation of the world's myths and religious traditions is considered by his peers in the post-Velikovsky era to be extreme and unsupported by an objective evaluation of all the data, physical and symbolic-literary.[23][24][25] Considering the overarching primacy Talbott accords planet Saturn in antiquity, he never confronts the fact that, in the Babylonian-Assyrian astrology that he cites, Saturn was not given a specific name until after "Jupiter and Venus were specifically distinguished among the planets."[26][27][28] [N.B.: When this criticism was posted to talk.origins on 20 June 1994 as the first of ten points, Talbott's reply on 3 July ignored this point. CLE] His literal interpretations of mythology deny a role for metaphor and synecdoche as he projects modern concepts onto archaic perceptions. . . .

        "Another critical view is that Talbott's research program for the 'Saturn Model', following Velikovsky, is based on a false premise: namely that, to our ancestors, the 'great gods' were planets[30] when in Mesopotamia, for example, the planets were merely one of several aspects of deities that were primarily anthropomorphic.[31][32][33] By eschewing our ancestors' use of religious and mythical metaphors and taking divine 'identities' out of cult context, the resulting interpretation is syncretism run amok. Especially vexing is Talbott's habit of substituting 'Saturn' for the name of a deity, such as 'Ninurta' or 'Ninib', in his source and also substituting 'Sumero-Babylonian' for 'Assyro-Babylonian'.[34] In a paper Talbott accepted for publication in Aeon on Nov. 1, 1987, but then suppressed,[35] Roger Ashton demonstrates the malleability of mythic imagery by showing how the imagery interpreted by Talbott can be explained without recourse to planets.[36]

        "Talbott's emphasis on coherence is entirely unjustified. According to him 'I claim the model predicts all the recurring objects and events of myth. And I claim that a fundamentally false model could never achieve this predictive ability.'[37] However, '[c]oherence alone is not enough for justification because a coherent set of propositions may not be grounded in reality. A fairy tale may be coherent, but that doesn't justify our believing it. Since justification is supposed to be a reliable guide to the truth, and since truth is grounded in reality, there must be more to justification than mere coherence.'[38] It has also been noted: '[A]s anyone who has studied logic or mathematics knows, systems of thought can be internally consistent yet bear no resemblance to physical reality. Incoherence may be a sign of falsehood, but coherence is no guarantor of truth.'[39] . . .

        "Talbott's focus is exclusively on Saturn at the celestial pole, which to him is the pole of the equator, while dismissing the ancients' veneratiuon of the pole of the ecliptic. The most exalted place in the sky was not the pole of the equator, but the pole of the ecliptic,[47] the 'pole par excellence of the Chaldeans'.[48] When confronted with Assyriologist Peter Jensen's identification of Anu with the pole of the ecliptic and Bel/Enlil with the pole of the equator,[49] Talbott declared 'I certainly cannot accept' it.[50] . . ."

        FYI: This text with footnotes may be accessed via a google.com search on ; but to save time, footnote [50] refers to Talbott's book The Saturn Myth, p. 342, n.60. The Sun-God Tablet of Nabû-apla-iddina from 9th century B.C. (mentioned above) was the subject of my August 3, 2009, posting to velikov-list, and explained why the cuneiform written on it shows that, contrary to Talbott and the "Saturnists", it has nothing whatsoever to do with the "Saturn thesis". Siggy_G and other readers may obtain a copy by request to me.

        With respect to Clube & Napier's Taurid Complex model for real, recent cometary cataclysms, it is not generally appreciated that Chinese records tell us that the Taurid meteor streams have been the most prolific source for fireballs over the past 2000 years. Historians have generally forgotten that the "heavenly portents" that Oliver Cromwell interpreted on his rise to power in 17th century England were fireballs in the Taurid meteor streams. Here's a capsule overview of Clube & Napier's model from my 1996 review of Ruth V. Sharon's ABA in J. Sci. Explor. 10(4): "Velikovsky's is not the only hypothesis connecting cosmic catastrophes to
        racial, or collective, amnesia. The formerly active, annual fireball storms with
        low-altitude detonations provided by the then-young Taurid meteor-stream,
        radiating from near the Pleiades in November (and peaking every 52 years),
        which stars in Clube's model of coherent catastrophism, would serve just as
        well to scare the bejeebers out of out ancestors. Since an
        armageddon did not accompany every return of the Taurids' progenitor, now
        defunct, it was an intermittent reinforcer, which behaviorists hold is as good as
        God: hence, the archetypal fear of comets."

        Finally, for now, Talbott frequently refers anonymously to "those who honestly and with open minds follow the evidence that led them to our group" in a way to suggest that these newcomers are scientists and other highly educated people; but he never mentions who these people are or how long they stay interested. Yes, Velikovsky and his successors have attracted the interest of many highly educated people over the years. I know two of them whose undergraduate enthusiasm led them to an interest in Velikovsky: Astronomer Andrew Hamilton at Univ. Colorado who once was the Physics Editor for the British Velikovsky journal, S.I.S. Review, before grad school in America and computer scientist Larry Smarr at Univ. California--San Diego who named Velikovsky as one of the three people who most influenced him in his undergraduate orals at Harvard. But today neither of them is keen on reminiscing over their youthful Velikovskian enthusiasm.

  • rknop says:

    Velikovsky made an argument based on no science whatsoever that then drew conclusions about science... and you want me to refute him scientifically? I hope you can understand why I draw parallels between what he did and creationists!

    But, also, please read the blog post above. There's no evidence of the catastrophes he was trying to explain. For his ideas to work, you'd have to throw out science that explains a tremendous number of other observations. His ideas simply make no sense scientifically.

    Mainstream science may be criticized for calling a spade a spade, but it's not a valid criticism. And the shit that Velikovksy made up? It's crazy.

    Suppose I said that the Earth was assembled by Von Neumann machines thirty thousand years ago based on templates they had in memory from a planet on the opposite side of the galaxy. Then, I could demand somebody refute that scientifically, and say that they're not being fair and that it's the evidence of closed-minded academia that nobody is taking that idea seriously. That would be little different from what Velikovsky did, except that (a) Velikovsky based his stuff on ancient legends rather than modern legends (in the form of science fiction), and (b) my model isn't as much at odds with observational truth of the solar system as Velikovsky's.

  • rknop says:

    Re: the far superior role that electricity supposedly plays here on Earth, I have to admit I feel compelled to point out that the dominant force on Earth is gravity, too! Why is Earth round? Why are its mountains not as big as Olympus Mons on Mars? Why do objects slide down low-friction planes at the same rate regardless of mass or composition? Why do satellites orbit in the time that they do? Why does the Moon have one of its sides always pointing towards Earth? How are we able to synchronize the GPS with receivers on the ground so precisely?

    The answer to ALL of those is gravity.

    Yeah, we observe electric currents in the lab and in the aurorae and so forth. And, in the lab, we can generally ignore all gravity OTHER than the gravity of the Earth. (Not always; sometimes there are sensitive experiments that can detect the mutual gravity of small objects.) When we figure out the quantum structure of matter, we COMPLETELY ignore gravity. But, when you're talking about the Earth? Gravity is still the most important force, especially as we get to larger scales.

    Scale matters.

    To be sure, gravity isn't everything. The reason I talked about things sliding down planes rather than falling objects above is that air resistance means that objects of different mass and composition *won't* fall at the same rate... but we did try that experiment on the moon with a hammer and a feather, and it worked there.

  • Siggy_G says:

    Actually, I agree with you on the role of gravity here on Earth and in regards to the gradual impact on objects far denser than a dusty plasma. But I think the statement you've commented on is meant to be understood like this:

    "acknowledging the role *of* the far *stronger* force of electricity" (i.e. the electric force basically being many orders of magnitude stronger than gravity). And, "the important role it plays not only here on Earth (throughout the atmosphere / within magma) but also throughout the cosmos" (i.e. during galaxy and stellar formation when in a dusty plasma state, among other processes - here electromangetic forces overgoes gravity, untill volumes of matter is condenced enough, where gravity gradually takes over)"

    and not:

    "the far superior role electricity plays here on Earth" (as if electricity overgoes gravity in the given charge to mass ratio the planet has)

    Original quote: "The electric universe/plasma cosmology theories do not seek to dismiss gravity, but to enhance our understanding of the universe by acknowledging the role that the far superior force of electricity plays not only here on Earth (...), but also throughout the cosmos."

    There is also an implied reference to all the observed magnetic fields throughout the cosmos having to originate from some form of electric currents/electricity.

  • Siggy_G says:

    I should also add that, in regards to early formation processes, *Marklund convection* draws in surrounding matter centralising heavier elements from the lighter. This matter seems to accrete at the pinches, where it forms spheres. It's plausible that the electricomagnetic processes that happene in astrophysical plasmas makes the foundation for structures that later accretes due to gravity. Hence, its importance.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1978ssmf.rept.....M
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1979Natur.277..370M
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2004AGUFMSM51A0358K

  • Siggy_G says:

    Leroy Ellenberger:
    Sorry for my late response - I didn't catch your replies (until noticing it on the frontpage) since they were sorted under my comment further up in this comment thread. Also, I'm fairly new to this blog and just occasionally pop by.

    I just have to say, whether or not I agree with all your points yet; the content of your posts are impressive, with specifics, scientific references and quotes. There were some points I haven't been aware of, and I should also stress that Talbott's work, cathastrophism and comparative mythology are fields I haven't researched a lot yet; but I find them quite intriguing. There is plenty of content to digest in your replies and on your site, so it will take some time to gather a proper reply. But all in all; it's food for thought - cheers!

    • Siggy_G: Thank you for your status update. I look forward to your response.

      Let me invite you to read the webpages linked to my name with each of my postings and invite you to read the Wikipedia entries for David Talbott (including the earlier cached one at worldlingo.com, quoted previously) and me, as C. Leroy Ellenberger. I cannot adequately express the profound let-down that followed my discovering, in an article widely cited by Talbott, Cardona and Cochrane for the Sun = Saturn equation (in an astrological omen!) - namely Morris Jastrow, Jr.'s 1910 "Sun and Saturn" - that in Mesopotamia planet Saturn was given a name AFTER Jupiter and Venus such that for a period of time Saturn, Mars and Mercury were lumped together as "Lu-Bats", or planets, whose intended identity was determined by context. This is NOT something one would expect to be the case had Saturn been as prominent as Talbott and his band of "Saturnists" claim. Later I discovered from first Jensen and then Jeremias and Santillana & Dechend in Hamlet's Mill that the most venerated place in the sky was NOT the pole of the equator, which is the only pole that matters to Talbott, but the pole of the ecliptic. These two points need not be devastating to Talbott's "Saturn Thesis", but the fact that he and his associates have never reconciled them with their model and that Talbott ignored the first point in his 3 July 1994 reply to me on talk.origins is something to think about. The web version of my 1995 Skeptic article "An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions" (enlarged) also contains much criticism of both Velikovsky's and Talbott's ideas.

  • Gordon Lamps says:

    "Supporters" of Velikovsky consider he was done a disservice, not because he was wrong, but because of the reaction and arguments used against him.

    I've always considered science to be reasonable, rational, fair and persuasive. So when I hear "scientists" calling other people "cranks" or "pseudoscientists", I wince. Partly because name calling is non-scientific, partly because it is lazy, partly because it explains nothing about why someone is wrong, and mainly because, it is not demonstrating the power of science.

    Velikovsky himself acknowledged that his arguments, based on ancient records, could be assessed using science. He didn't try and pretend he was presenting a scientific argument. If anything, it was his publisher, MacMillan, who tried to "hoodwink" the public, by listing Velikovsky's book in their textbook catalogue.

    Several people were fired for even looking at Velikovsky's work. Others such as Carl Sagan were often scientifically wrong in their arguments. And this is why Velikovsky received far more attention than he may have deserved.

    Ancient records are not a complete non-starter in science. I would argue that the "new" science of geomythology owes something to Velikovsky, see for example:
    Myth and Geology, Geological Society, London, Special Publications 2007, v. 273
    http://sp.lyellcollection.org/content/273/1

  • rknop says:

    "But he was so mistreated!" Yeah, I hear that. That's no argument in favor of his nutty ideas. His ideas have been dismissed over and over again; they're so patently wrong and unscientific on the face of them that there's really not much in the way of scientific argument to be made. We'd have let him rest if his ideas hadn't been so pushed, and if there weren't still nuts out there like Siggy_G who seem to think there's something to them. The fact that these crazy ideas are holding on despite the fact that they make absolutely no scientific sense is the reason that we're still referring to this stuff as crackpottery.

    A spade is a spade. You can't keep pushing crackpot ideas forever without eventually people just writing you off as a crackpot.

    I can make up any kind of crazy stuff, and then claim mistreatment if nobody takes me scientifically seriously. Does that really make me the victim of mistreatment? Does that really make the scientific community guilty of misconduct if they don't bother to take the crazy stuff I made up seriously? This is exactly the situation with Velikovsky. Science doesn't have the responsibility to carefully disprove every crazy idea that somebody tries to throw at it. The crazy ideas need to have some reason why they should be taken seriously before anybody has any responsibility to take them seriously. This is not the case with Velikovsky's ideas.

  • Gordon Lamps says:

    There were arguments in favour of some of Velikovsky's ideas, they just weren't scientific, and did not claim to be.

    Perhaps this is why the public doesn't take aspects of Standard Cosmology series because the ideas seem crackpot too (and its supporters resort to name calling). (a) A priest claiming that the Universe popped into existing out of nothing (b) String theory (c) Multiverses (d) Era before the Big Bang (e) A slew of invisible stuff: dark matter, dark energy.

    I understand why scientists might not want to treat all nutty ideas equally. After all, it was Velikovsky who correctly predicted (a) that the Earth's magnetosphere reaches the Moon (b) Venus may have anomalous rotation (c) that Jupiter emits radio waves. Of course that never made his theories and methods correct, but if it was me, I'd want to demonstrate that.

  • rknop says:

    Do you really mean to say that mainstream science can't explain the Earth's magnetosphere, Venus' rotation, or Jupiter's radio emission? That's what you seem to imply by saying that there is anything left to demonstrate on those three issues that might raise questions with regard to Velikovsky's crackpottery.

    Also, what makes you think that the public doesn't take seriously standard cosmology? The truth is that most of them probably don't know enough about it to know that there is something to have an opinion on. There is a large segment that don't accept it-- but they don't accept it because they think that the Universe was created in its present form 6000 years ago by God. That's a well known area of scientific ignorance that has nothing to do with people not being convinced by GR-based cosmology! As for the rest, I'd like to see your evidence that "the public" doesn't believe any of these things. SOME don't. YOU don't. But that's different from "the public".

    Finally, (a), (b), (c), and (d) of the things you list aren't part of the Big Bang model. They're either the history of people who worked on it, or things that some people think about that are extensions to it. It's also weird to call Lemaitre a "priest" in this context. He was, yes-- but he was also a professor of physics, and it is the latter that is relevant when it comes to making technical use of Einstein's theory of general relativity and applying it to metrics relevant to the Universe as a whole. (Velikovsky, in contrast, had absolutely no clue about science at all. Lemaitre was a priest, AND a scientist.)

  • Gordon Lamps says:

    Of course science can explain the magnetosphere etc. The point is that, by describing Velikovsky as a crackpot, in my opinion does a double services (1) By not demonstrating why Velikovsky was wrong (2) By not showing how reasonable science is.

  • Siggy_G says:

    Rob,
    Since you're considering me a "nut" for claiming that Velikovsky was onto something (i.e. for some of his ideas), I want to point to a letter published in Science magazine in 1962 from Prof. Valentine Bargmann and Columbia University and astronomer Lloyd Motz concerning two of Velikovsky's predictions, one on radio noises from Jupiter, the other on the heat of Venus:

    "In the light of recent discoveries of radio waves from Jupiter and of the high surface temperature of Venus, we think it proper and just to make the following statement.

    On 14 October 1953, Immanuel Velikovsky, addressing the Forum of the Graduate College of Princeton University in a lecture entitled "Worlds in Collision in the Light of Recent Finds in Archaeology, Geology and Astronomy: Refuted or Verified?," concluded the lecture as follows: "The planet Jupiter is cold, yet its gases are in motion. It appears probable to me that it sends out radio noises as do the sun and the stars. I suggest that this be investigated."

    Soon after that date, the text of the lecture was deposited with each of us [it is printed as supplement to Velikovsky's Earth in Upheaval (Doubleday, 1955)]. Eight months later, in June 1954, Velikovsky, in a letter, requested Albert Einstein to use his influence to have Jupiter surveyed for radio emission. The letter, with Einstein's marginal notes commenting on this proposal, is before us. Ten more months passed, and on 5 April 1955 B. F. Burke and K. L. Franklin of the Carnegie Institution announced the chance detection of strong radio signals emanating from Jupiter. They recorded the signals for several weeks before they correctly identified the source.

    This discovery came as something of a surprise because radio astronomers had never expected a body as cold as Jupiter to emit radio waves (1).

    (...)

    Although we disagree with Velikovsky's theories, we feel impelled to make this statement to establish Velikovsky's priority of prediction of these two points and to urge, in view of these prognostications, that his other conclusions be objectively re-examined. "

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/138/3547/local/front-matter.pdf#page=1350
    (Page 1350-1352, Letters)

  • Gordon Lamps' polemics supporting Velikovsky contain several misconceptions, which I would like to address. The scientists who condemned Worlds in Collision in 1950 were not merely calling Velikovsky names such as "crackpot" or "pseudoscientist". They had seen Velikovsky's 1946 monograph "Cosmos without Gravitation" and knew Velikovsky did not know what he was talking about in physics. After analyzing Velikovsky's ideas in that monograph for his 1984 book Beyond Velikovsky, Henry Bauer concluded Velikovsky was "an ignoramous masquerading as a sage".

    Macmillan did not list Worlds in Collision in its textbook catalog. In a catalog of books of interest to college professors, it was listed in the back with other non-textbooks under the heading "Science".

    Only two people were fired from their jobs for their association with Velikovsky's book, not "several"; but in each case this was only the excuse, not the reason. Atwater at the Hayden Planetarium was the victim of professional jealousy from astronomers for being its director while not being an astronomer. Editor Putnam at Macmillan had drinking habits at lunch that his tee-totaler boss's boss, president George Brett, did not approve.

    The 2007 volume Myth and Geology contains many interesting chapters, but none of them have any Velikovskian flavor involving errant planets, which is the hallmark of Velikovsky's catastrophism.

    Concerning Siggy_G's recounting the 1962 Bargmann and Motz letter in Science, they wrote it at Velikovsky's suggestion and Velikovsky may well have written the first draft. Concerning Velikovsky's Jupiter radio noise prediction, radio-astronomer James Warwick discussed it at the June 1974 symposium at McMaster University in Ontario. Here is my account from "An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions": "As Warwick explained, 'Saying that there will be found radio emissions from Jupiter was tantamount to a statement by John Adams in mid-19th century that there was another planet in the sky but with no more evidence, say, than the peculiarities of Uranus' motion.... Velikovsky's prediction was precisely useless in just its LACK of detail-- where to look in the radio spectrum (from ground base it covers a factor of 10,000 to one in frequency); what to see there, that is the character of the source (Velikovsky didn't understand that two kinds of distinct non-thermal emission are produced); and when to look (Burke's and Franklin's data show enormous variations that seemed to be basically stochastic)' (Pensee VIII, p. 42). Velikovsky also did not understand that 'radio stars' are not ordinary stars but what are today called 'discrete sources'."

  • Siggy_G says:

    "The scientists who condemned Worlds in Collision in 1950 were not merely calling Velikovsky names such as “crackpot” or “pseudoscientist”." That's probably correct, whilst these terms are rather the trademark argument seen by internet pseudoskeptics in general.

    Regarding the described insignificance of Velikovsky's predictions about Jupiter and Venus. Did Velikovsky make an excellent display of scientific method with these statements? No. Did he have ideas about the planets that astronomers hadn't predicted or suspected? Yes, evidently. And that is in regards to both Jupiter emitting radio waves and Venus having a high surface temperature. Why was this suspected by Velikosky (years before) and not by contemporary radio astronomers?

    Saying that Velikovsky should have provided the exact numbers and frequency bands, is the requirements of a scientific hypothesis or semi-developed mathematical model, not of an idea or proposed qualitative model. How one does the detection, how the capability of the instrument of detecting a wide range (most instruments cover significant ranges of freqencies), and detecting the peaks thereof, is the next step. At least they had an idea of what to hunt for and try out, as opposed to settle with "it's just cold planet".

    • In a superficial way, Velikovsky's "advance claims" about the hot surface temperature of Venus and the "radio noise" from Jupiter seem impressive; but examination shows they are based on false premises. Concentrating on correct predictions, as so many supporters have done, ignores the logical fallacy that correct predictions do not validate a theory because a false theory can produce correct predictions, as Wesley Salmon explained in his article "Confirmation" in May 1973 Scientific American which cited Velikovsky as an example, an article that was ignored by Velikovskians at the time when Pensée magazine regularly commented on mentions of Velikovsky in the press.

      Velikovsky believed Venus would be hot primarily due to its recent, violent origin from Jupiter, an origin that is scientifically worthless because the fission process described by such as Lyttleton and McCrea in the 1960s, and then embraced by Velikovsky and his supporters, has been shown by more recent researchers to be incapable of producing a rocky body such as Venus. Velikovsky even mispresented Lyttleton on this point in changing "it is even possible" concerning the origin of terrestrial planets by fission from gas giants to "must", as Michael Friedlander pointed out to Velikovsky in November 1974 at the Philosophy of Science meeting at University of Notre Dame. We now know from the topography imaged by the Magellan mission, especially the deep, wide craters, that the crust of Venus is too thick for it to have been molten as recently as Velikovsky envisioned. The sub-adiabatic temperature gradient in the atmosphere below the clouds tells us that the lower atmosphere is stagnant, stable against convection which rules out massive, ongoing volcanism envisioned by Velikovsky.

      Concerning Jupiter's "radio noise", Velikovsky clearly envisioned an origin of a thermal nature which is distinctly different from the actual synchrotron radiation mechanism. The high temperature associated with this radiation, since it originates high in the planet's magnetic field, has nothing to do with the cold temperature of the planet itself.

      And while much effort has been expended collecting examples of Velikovsky's correct predictions, none of these catalogers bothered to list any of his INCORRECT predictions. For example, Velikovsky maintained that no tree survived the first Venus-Earth event at ca. 1500 B.C.E. But by the time Earth in Upheaval was published in 1955, the bristlecone pines in California were known to be much older than 3500 years. The astronomer Dennis Rawlins claimed in his 1972 "Freudian Astronomy" that this incorrect prediction alone was sufficient to refute/disprove Worlds in Collision. Here's how Rawlins stated this in a footnote:

      See V's ill-timed Earth in Upheaval statement "The
      oldest trees on record are [redwoods]...the most
      ancient started life [c. 1300 B.C.]...Thus it appears
      no tree has survived...the great [WC] catastrophe [c.
      1500 B.C.]...global catastrophe...hurricane and tidal
      wave....a sunless world for many years." (Dell ed. p.
      167; see also this page's sources in
      Douglass--fantastic extrapolation of
      virtually-insignificant ripples.)
      This was penned in 1954 (p. 276n)--unfortunately the
      very same year it was discovered that bristlecone
      pines go back way beyond redwoods, to c. 3000 B.C.
      They were no more fazed by V's imaginary "great
      catastrophes" than are his faithful--by this
      evidential catastrophe: a devastatingly negative test,
      which could stand by itself as a complete disproof of
      WC.

      When I first met Velikovsky on Palm Sunday, 1978, I had a list of 13 questions, the first of which concerned the age of the bristlecone pines. When I posed this question to him he replied immediately and with the nonchalance of a Borscht Belt comic: "So? They survived." Which suggests the importance Velikovsky attached to negative evidence. This and related matters are discussed in "A lesson from Velikovsky" (expanded from Summer 1986 Skep. Inq.), linked to my name here.

  • Nereid says:

    Guess who wrote this: "When a fact outside one's specialized field of view falsifies a theoretical assumption, common sense should direct the attention of the specialist to this contrary fact. All that is left when the specialist ignores common sense is denial."

    Now David Talbott (you, dear reader, can determine for yourself what he thinks of Velikovsky) meant 'specialized field' to refer to mainstream astrophysics (or something similar); however, it applies just as well to those who are fans of the Big V, doesn't it?

    (you can google this, to find the source)

  • [...] of stupidity. My conclusion is that he did, most clearly in the matter of astronomical history (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). His persistent belief in the idea that Venus almost crashed [...]