Velikovsky's Ghost Returns
By Michael Goodspeed
"Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions." ~ Alan Barth
It has been said that an error is often made more dangerous by the TRUTH it contains. In the hands of a good manipulator, a compelling or surprising fact can give believability to a sea of falsehoods.
Today, this danger is particularly serious due to the concentration of power in media. We've all seen how this works. On controversial issues, where the public is simply not aware of key facts, an artfully orchestrated presentation can determine the public's posture on an issue for years to come.
A recent example of media coverage wreaking havoc on public understanding was the Coast to Coast AM "debate" on the life and work of Immanuel Velikovsky, author of the 1950's bestseller Worlds in Collision. Representing the scientific mainstream was Harvard educated astronomer and NASA official, Dr. David Morrison. Since the death of Carl Sagan, TV journalists often turn to Morrison when raising "big picture" questions in astronomy.
On the other side of the issue was the ambivalent "defender" of Velikovsky, physicist James McCanney -- a name familiar to most regular Coast to Coast listeners.
I'd like to report that the worst of this confrontation was the combatants' continual misrepresentation of Velikovsky. But that was not the worst of it. The worst of it was the sheer tedium as the combatants sapped the life out of the Velikovsky question. If this is all that Velikovsky's "challenge to science" comes down to, why should anyone care?
Listening to the program, one would never know why one of the preeminent heretics of the twentieth century simply will not go away. Nor would one realize that the media rarely if ever present the Velikovsky story accurately, or that Velikovsky sowed the seeds of an intellectual revolution that will soon emerge in full flower.
To fill the void, I'll briefly summarize the story-
The Russian-born scholar was a friend and colleague of Albert Einstein, a student of Freud's first pupil Wilhelm Stekel, and Israel's first practicing psychoanalyst. Some of his writings appeared in Freud's Imago. In 1930 he published the first paper to suggest that epileptics would be characterized by abnormal encephalograms. He was the founder and editor of the scholarly publication, Scripta Universitatis, the physics and mathematics section being prepared by Einstein.
It was while researching a book on Freud and his heroes that Velikovsky first wondered about the catastrophes said to have accompanied the Hebrew Exodus, when fire and hailstones rained upon Egypt, earthquakes decimated the nation, and a pillar of fire and smoke moved in the sky. Biblical and other traditional Hebrew sources speak so vividly that Velikovsky began to wonder if some extraordinary natural event might have played a part in the Exodus.
To explore this possibility, Velikovsky sought out a corresponding account in ancient Egyptian records, finding a remarkable parallel in a papyrus kept at the University of Leyden Museum, called the Papyrus Ipuwer. The document contains the lamentations of an Egyptian sage in response to a great catastrophe overwhelming Egypt, when the rivers ran red, fire blazed in the sky, and pestilence ravaged the land.
Velikovsky also encountered surprising parallels in Babylonian and Assyrian clay tablets, Vedic poems, Chinese epics, and North American Indian, Maya, Aztec, and Peruvian legends. From these remarkably similar accounts, he constructed a thesis of celestial catastrophe. He concluded that a very large body -- apparently a "comet" -- passed close enough to Earth to violently perturb its axis, as global earthquakes, wind and falling stone decimated early civilizations.
Before Velikovsky could complete his reconstruction, he had to resolve an enigma. He had found that in the accounts of far-flung cultures, the cometary agent of disaster was identified as a planet. And the closer he looked, the more clear it became to him that this planet was Venus: The converging ancient images include the Babylonian "torch-star" Venus and "bearded star" Venus, the Mexican "smoking star" Venus, the Peruvian "long-haired" star Venus, the Egyptian Great Star "scattering its flame in fire" and the widespread imagery of Venus as a flaming serpent or dragon in the sky. In each instance, the cometary language is undeniable, for these were the very symbols of "the comet" in the ancient languages.
By following the evidence, Velikovsky discovered that Venus holds a special place among the world's first astronomers. In both the Old World and the New, ancient stargazers regarded Venus with awe and terror, carefully observing its risings and settings, and claiming the planet to be the cause of world-ending catastrophe. These astronomical traditions, Velikovsky reasoned, must have had roots in a traumatic human experience, though modern science has always assumed that the planets evolved in quiet and undisturbed isolation over billions of years.
Based on extensive cross-cultural comparison, Velikovsky concluded that the planet Venus, prior to the dawn of recorded history, was ejected violently from the gas giant Jupiter, displaying a spectacular comet-like tail. Its later catastrophic approach to the Earth (around 1500 B.C.) provided the historical backdrop to the Hebrew Exodus, Velikovsky claimed.
In Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky argued that the terrifying "gods" of the ancient world were planets -- those inconspicuous specks of light we see moving with clock-like regularity, as if to deny their chaotic roles in the past. The book recounted two close encounters of the comet or protoplanet Venus with the Earth. Included in the same volume was a large section on the ancient war god, whom Velikovsky identified as the planet Mars. He claimed that centuries after the Venus catastrophes, Mars moved on an unstable orbit intersecting that of Earth, leading to a series of Earth-disturbing events in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.
With the first reviews of the book, the publisher Macmillan came under fire from astronomers and scientists. But sales of Worlds in Collision skyrocketed, and it quickly soared to the top of the bestseller lists. Dr. Harlow Shapley, director the Harvard Observatory, branded the book "nonsense and rubbish," but without reading it. A letter from Shapley to Macmillan threatened a boycott of the company's textbook division. The astronomer Fred Whipple threatened to break his relations with the publisher. Under pressure from the scientific community, Macmillan was forced to transfer publishing rights to Doubleday, though Worlds in Collision was already the number one bestseller in the country. Macmillan editor James Putnam, who had been with the company for 25 years and had negotiated the contract for Worlds in Collision, was summarily dismissed.
In the wake of Macmillan's publication of Worlds in Collision, one scientific journal after another denounced Velikovsky's work. The eminent astronomer and textbook author Donald Menzel publicly ridiculed Velikovsky. Astronomer Cecilia-Payne Gaposchkin launched a campaign to discredit Velikovsky, without reading Worlds in Collision. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists produced a series of articles grossly misrepresenting Velikovsky. And Gordon Atwater, curator of the respected Hayden Planetarium, was fired after having proposed in This Week Magazine that Velikovsky's work deserved open-minded discussion.
For many years after publication of Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky was persona non grata on college campuses. He was denied the opportunity to publish articles in scientific journals. When he attempted to respond to critical articles in such journals, they rejected these responses. The attitude of established science was typified by the reactions of astronomers. Michigan astronomer Dean McLaughlin exclaimed, "Lies -- yes lies." In response to a correspondent, astronomer Harold Urey, wrote: "My advice to you is to shut the book [Worlds in Collision] and never look at it again in your lifetime."
For Velikovsky, this was the beginning of a personal "dark age". But remarkably, his friendship with Albert Einstein was unaffected, and Einstein met with him often, maintaining an extended correspondence as well, encouraging Velikovksy to look past the misbehavior of the scientific elite. In discussion with Einstein, Velikovsky predicted that Jupiter would be found to emit radio noises, and he urged Einstein to use his influence to have Jupiter surveyed for radio emission, though Einstein himself disputed Velikovsky's reasoning. But in April 1955 radio noises were discovered from Jupiter, much to the surprise of scientists who had thought Jupiter was too cold and inactive to emit radio waves. That discovery led Einstein to agree to assist in developing other tests of Velikovsky's thesis. But the world's most prominent scientist died only a few weeks later.
Velikovsky expected other discoveries through space exploration. He claimed that the planet Venus would be found to be extremely hot, since in his reconstruction, the planet was "candescent" in historical times. His thesis also implied the likelihood of a massive Venusian atmosphere, residue of its former "cometary" tail. And he claimed that the Earth would be found to have a magnetosphere reaching at least to the moon, because he was convinced that in historical times the Earth exchanged electrical charge with other planetary bodies.
Arrival of the space age was a critical juncture for Velikovsky, as data returned from the Moon, from Mars, and from Venus begin to recast our views of these celestial bodies. In 1959, Dr. Van Allen discovered that the Earth has a magnetosphere. In the early sixties, scientists realized, much to their surprise, that the planet Venus has a surface temperature as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead. "The temperature is much higher than anyone would have predicted," wrote Cornell Mayer.
Things grew more promising for Velikovsky. In 1962, two scientists, Valentin Bargmann, professor of physics at Princeton, and Lloyd Motz, professor of astronomy at Columbia, urged that Velikovsky's conclusions "be objectively re-examined." In support of this reconsideration, they cited his prior predictions about radio noises from Jupiter, the terrestrial magnetosphere, and an unexpectedly high temperature of Venus.
In July 1969, on the eve of the first landing on the Moon, the New York Times invited Velikovsky to summarize what he expected the Apollo missions to find. Velikovsky responded by listing nine "advance claims," including remanent magnetism, a steep thermal gradient, radioactive hot spots, and regular moonquakes. All told, it was a remarkably accurate summation of later findings. But still, the scientific community was silent.
Then, in 1972, at the invitation of the Society of Harvard Engineers and Scientists, Velikovsky returned to the site from which the original boycott was launched. His presentation produced a standing ovation. "I survived, as you see," he said. "I have been waiting for this evening for 22 years. I came here to find the young, the spirited, the men who have a fascination for discovery."
Also in 1972, a small student journal in Portland, Oregon called Pensee began publishing a series of full issues devoted to Velikovsky, with contributions from the pioneer himself. The Pensee series "Immanuel Velikovsky Reconsidered" recounted the history of the Velikovsky affair, bringing international attention to the scientific misbehavior involved, and reviewing space age findings lending support to Velikovsky's revolutionary thesis of planetary catastrophe. Clearly, it was time for a reassessment of Velikovsky's work, and the Pensée series produced a groundswell of interest in the Velikovsky debate. The first issue became the number one best seller on several college campuses and inspired stories in Readers Digest, Analog, Time, Newsweek, Physics Today, National Observer, and many other publications.
Now filled with optimism, Velikovsky began receiving numerous invitations from university campuses. The British Broadcasting Corporation produced a special documentary on Velikovksy, shown twice because of popular interest. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also showed a documentary on Velikovsky. And an international symposium was held in Toronto, Ontario. Velikovsky also gave a talk at the NASA Ames Research Center, suggesting experiments and procedures to test his claims.
For about two years after the appearance of "Immanuel Velikovsky Reconsidered," the scientific elite remained eerily quiet. The resurrection of a heretic, long presumed dead, seemed all too easy.
Then came a counterattack through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. America's largest scientific organization scheduled a symposium on Worlds in Collision for an "open discussion of Velikovsky." The proceedings of the 1974 San Francisco AAAS gathering would feature the popular astronomer Carl Sagan in a direct "debate" with Velikovsky.
The gathering had all the trappings of a media event, and like so many such events, it brought no clarity to the subject at all. Yet for years afterward it was dutifully remembered in mainstream journals as the "definitive refutation" of Velikovsky.
The AAAS meeting was the beginning of a relentless campaign against Velikovsky. In the years that followed, Sagan devoted a substantial section of each book he published to debunking Velikovsky. And science editors of newspapers across the country, no longer accustomed to looking up anything for themselves, simply reported what they were told by local astronomers: the Velikovsky question was now a dead issue.
Before he died in 1979, Velikovsky grew darkly pessimistic, telling those close to him that the battle was over, that the critics had won. Mainstream science, he said, would never permit an objective hearing on the subject of Worlds in Collision.
But in the awakening of public interest seven years earlier, something had occurred that Velikovsky did not anticipate. Even as the controversy faded into the background, a number of independent researchers labored quietly in their own fields, seeking out the remaining pieces of the puzzle Velikovsky had laid before them. Unanswered questions ranging from the role of electricity in the universe to the mysteries of Venus and the origins of ancient mythology would preoccupy these researchers for decades. For several of them, the investigation emerged as a life's work. Over the years they began to communicate with each other, then to actively collaborate, while developing quiet liaison with open-minded authorities in the sciences and in the study of the human past.
Today, almost fifty-five years after publication of Worlds in Collision, those who forged this independent inquiry WILL be heard. They are no longer dependent on established journals and academic institutions to gain a public hearing. Though the Internet is a "virtual-world" carnival, it is also an unprecedented vehicle for mobilizing communication. When official pronouncements are filled with misrepresentations, these CAN be answered. And people are now communicating with each other at lightning speed.
As for misrepresentations: David Morrison began by describing Velikovsky as a "loner" who would not submit his ideas for scholarly or scientific review. McCanney did not challenge the statement, but AGREED with it. Yet the assertion is LUDICROUS. Einstein discoursed with Velikovsky for years, and the two met privately at Einstein's residence innumerable times. Velikovsky took every opportunity to communicate directly with leading authorities in the sciences. Without this diligence the astronomers Bargmann and Motz (noted above) would never have called for an open consideration of Velikovsky's hypothesis. Of course there were many who already "knew" that Velikovsky could not be correct, but others responded with personal meetings and extended correspondence. The preeminent French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer certainly saw SOMETHING in Velikovsky's claims. Their communication spanned years. On the vital issue of dating ancient cultures, Schaefer wrote to Velikovsky, "You will be the first among those who get the information before my publication I am not concerned with opinions and chronological schemes, but only with the advance of our knowledge."
The distinguished Harvard historian Robert Pfeifer, former chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages at Harvard, showed a strong personal interest in Velikovsky's work and took personal initiative on his behalf. Well before the publication of Velikvosky's Ages in Chaos, Pfeiffer wrote in 1942, "I regard this work-provocative as it is-of fundamental importance." And in 1945: "I am firmly convinced that the publication of this book would be of immense value to historical studies."
Velikovsky's ability to anticipate scientific discovery produced a surprising statement from the renowned geologist Harry Hess, chairman of the Department of Geology at Princeton, with whom Velikovsky conversed continuously. In an open letter to Velikovsky in 1963, Hess wrote: "Some of these predictions were said to be impossible when you made them. All of them were predicted long before proof that they were correct came to hand. Conversely, I do not know of any specific prediction you made that has since been proven to be false. I suspect the merit lies in that you have a good basic background in the natural sciences and you are quite uninhibited by the prejudices and probability taboos which confine the thinking of most of us."
Other scientists and social scientists that showed deep interest in Velikovsky's work included astronomer Walter S Adams; archaeologist Cyrus Gordon; and Horace Kallen, one of America's most respected scholars. In 1950, when Worlds in Collision came out, Kallen was a personal friend of Harlow Shapley, the Harvard astronomer who led the original scientific attack on Velikovsky. But later, Kallen recounted Shapley's role in the "Velikovsky Affair," and he ridiculed the hasty and pretentious manner in which the defenders of orthodoxy had dismissed Velikovsky's hypothesis.
Kallen's biting criticism of scientific dogmatism is every bit as appropriate today as it was 30 years ago. In the debate with McCanney, Morrison opined that Velikovsky may have sounded intelligent to the untrained, but that when you look more closely, "nothing is there." Velikovsky was "simply wrong," said Morrison, "demonstrably wrong."
Here, on the other hand, is the opinion of the two authors of Thunderbolts of the Gods, each having investigated the thesis of Worlds in Collision for more than three decades. David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill write: "The authors of this book believe that Velikovsky was incorrect on many particulars, some of them crucial to a proper understanding of ancient events. But his place among the great pioneers of science will be secure if he was correct on the underlying tenets"
Talbott and Thornhill do not accept Velikovsky's specific chronology of events, and they place the age of planetary upheaval just prior to the flowering of monumental civilization, which they see as a creative act of human REMEMBERING. Rather than declare Velikovsky to be categorically "right" or "wrong", they cite these claims as crucial to any assessment of Velikovsky's contribution to science -
1. The present order of the planets is new. In geologically recent times the planetary system was unstable, and at least some planets moved on much different courses than they do today.
2. Erratic movements of the planets led to global catastrophe on Earth.
3. Through rigorous cross-cultural comparison of the ancient traditions, an investigator can reconstruct the celestial dramas.
One more principle must also be included, according to the authors. Velikovsky said that the key to reconciling his claims with scientific theory would be ELECTROMAGNETISM, a force in which astronomers and cosmologists had no interest in 1950. He stated that if the Sun and the planets are not the "electrically neutral" bodies astronomers assume, then even "the law of gravitation must come into question."
In the years since Velikovsky wrote these words, a new perspective has emerged from space age discovery. A universe teeming with charged particles-the "Electric Universe" of Wallace Thornhill and others -- is redefining everything we see in space. But you would not know this by listening to David Morrison, whose words still echo the electrically inactive, purely gravitational 1950's vision of the heavens.
The electrical theorists say that the picture of the universe has changed, and all of the theoretical sciences will give way to a revolution in human understanding. The authors of Thunderbolts of the Gods summarize the new view in these words:
"From the smallest particle to the largest galactic formation, a web of electrical circuitry connects and unifies all of nature, organizing galaxies, energizing stars, giving birth to planets and, on our own world, controlling weather and animating biological organisms. There are no isolated islands in an 'electric universe.'"
The confidence of the electrical theorists comes from the testability of the hypothesis. Its every component leads to implications and predictions that can be either confirmed or falsified through direct investigation. A comparison of this approach to that taken by David Morrison may be instructive, so let's go back to the "beginning," cosmically speaking:
Morrison expressed supreme confidence in the Big Bang, one of the most popular themes in scientific speculation today. The Big Bang is well supported and secure, he said, and we see "no contradictory evidence." Here he was only reflecting the posture of official science. Most institutions receiving Federal funds for the study of cosmological questions will state the Big Bang and its corollaries as fact, and then tell us how well everything is going thanks to their latest discoveries. For a large number of astronomers, this is what it takes for their funding to be renewed next year. Since Morrison himself is included in this political game, we have every reason to be skeptical.
Here's the truth: Scientific confidence in the Big Bang has already collapsed. The dogmatic Doppler interpretation of redshift (shifting of light from distant galaxies toward red on the light spectrum) has crashed and burned. It was this uncompromising interpretation of redshift that led astronomers to place newly discovered, strongly redshifted quasars at the farthest reaches of the universe. But now we know that quasars are found in energetic and physical connection to nearby galaxies. We've even seen a quasar in front of a nearby galaxy. All of the most critical evidence is now against the Big Bang. See Big Bang Broken and Can't Be Fixed,
But should this come as a surprise? Plasma cosmologists-including such distinguished authorities as Anthony Peratt of Los Alamos Laboratories and astrophysicist Eric Lerner-have long argued that the pillar of Big Bang reasoning is refuted by what we see in space and what we observe in scientific experiments. In fact, the world's leading authority on peculiar galaxies, astronomer Halton Arp, has been warning the astronomical community for decades now that it is following a dead-end path. He paid for these warnings dearly, losing his telescope time and being forced to move to Germany to carry on his work at the Max Planck Institute. Its too bad Halton Arp and Immanuel Velikovsky never had a chance to compare notes on the role of sacred cows in the sciences.
Peratt, Thornhill, Fred Hoyle, Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge, and many others have long claimed that astronomers were overlooking evidence essential to the question of redshift. There is evidence that plasma discharge can produce intrinsic redshift -- that is, redshift with no inherent relationship to velocity or distance. Our own Sun exhibits an unexplained excess redshift at its limb. This is no small matter. If plasma discharge is involved, the electrically neutral universe of the 1950's must be abandoned once and for all. And we're not talking about a small problem here, but the biggest mistake science has made in modern times. Virtually all of the theoretical sciences have been held captive by the same conjecture, which started as a guess, then hardened into the pretentiousness of pure mathematics, divorced from the rigors of observation and experiment.
From start to finish, Morrison refused to acknowledge the distinction between fact and theory. Here are his precise words with respect to the origins of planets: "The planets in the solar system formed out of a spinning dust cloud, a circumstellar disk it's called, right along with the Sun, and so they all have the same basic motion coming from their origin, and they formed together with the Sun."
You can see he is confident in a theory that has been around for years, though the theory did not predict any of the milestone discoveries of the space age. The nebular theory is, in fact, one of the primary reasons why every major planetary discovery has come as a surprise. We can now view the planets up close and personal. Their surfaces do not speak for isolated and incremental evolution, but for an unstable solar system in the past.
The appeal of the nebular theory early in the twentieth century was based on observations later revealed to be incorrect. At that time, astronomers believed that only one galaxy, the Milky Way, existed. When they observed what they called "spiral nebulas" and "planetary nebulas," they imagined these clouds to be the birthplaces of stars and planets, formed by the "gravitational collapse" of gas and dust.
But the early "observations" proved to be erroneous. With better telescopes, astronomers realized that "spiral nebulas" were actually galaxies beyond the Milky Way. They could tell us nothing about an imagined "gravitational collapse" of clouds into stars and planets. Then, with still better observational tools in the latter decades of the twentieth century, it became clear that "planetary nebula" were not gas clouds coalescing or accreting into planets, but the remains of EXPLODING STARS.
Thanks to our better telescopes now, we DO see evidence of planetary formation. For example, the discovery of gas-giant planets orbiting nearby stars should have forced a complete review of the assumptions behind the nebular theory. But it did not. Most such bodies are moving on exceedingly close orbits to their primary (star), the opposite of what was predicted by "planetary nebula" models. Faced with this contradiction, the theorists concluded that the gas-giant planets must have moved inward after they were formed. But if that were a normal occurrence, then Jupiter should be closer to the Sun than Mercury, and Earth and its neighbors should not exist. Either way, the picture certainly does not suggest planets coalescing from a cloud, and then remaining in place for billions of years!
Morrison is not the only astronomer desperately needing an education in plasma physics and electric discharge. Astronomers working with gravity-only models have failed again and again to anticipate the new view of space. This record of failure can now be compared to the striking success of "plasma cosmology," rooted in the work of Kristian Birkeland, Irving Langmuir, and Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfven, the father of modern plasma science. For a brief summary of the predictive success of plasma cosmology, see-
Chapter One, Thunderbolts of the Gods,
Morrison insisted that the Sun is known to be electrically neutral, but his only defense of this claim was a reference to the "neutrality" of the solar wind. He did not mention the fact that the charged particles of the solar wind are accelerated away from the Sun (something that was not known when Velikovsky wrote Worlds in Collision). In contrast to Morrison's bold assertions, the known FACT is that electric fields accelerate charged particles. This acceleration is the best measure of an electric field's strength. Unless someone can demonstrate (not merely hypothesize) something other than an electric field that can accelerate charged particles, there is simply no integrity to Morrison's sweeping assertions.
It appears that Morrison is simply unaware of the electric model, falling into the most common error of its critics, who try to apply high school electrostatics to the principles of a glow discharge. The Sun is a glow discharge according to the modern pioneer of the electric Sun, Ralph Juergens, whose work has been further developed by Wallace Thornhill and Donald Scott. See Of Pith Balls and Plasma,
It was surprising to find that the debate included no meaningful discussion of comet theory. This was unfortunate, because ideas about comets could be the Achilles Heel of dogmatic science.
On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact probe will reach comet Tempel 2 and fire an 800-pound projectile into the comet's nucleus. NASA's comet investigators do not doubt that hidden beneath the surface of comets is a great abundance of water ice. How else could comet tails be produced, except by ices sublimating in the heat of the Sun?
The revolutionary electric Sun model set forth by Juergens in the early 70's included a view of comets as electric discharge phenomena. If the Sun is a glow discharge at the center of a radial electric field, then comets moving on highly elliptical orbits through this electric field will experience increasing stresses that can only be relieved through electrical arcing, removing material and accelerating it away from the nucleus, along the path of solar magnetic field lines.
Though electrical experts cannot categorically say there are no volatiles beneath the surface of comets, they all consider it most likely that the projectile will strike a solid rock and not a pile of ice and rubble. According to Thornhill, some of the water we normally detect
in comet tails appears to be a result of electrical exchange within the coma of the comet. Oxygen is removed from the negatively charged comet nucleus by electric arcs, before uniting energetically with the positively charged hydrogen ions of the solar wind. The surfaces of the comets, Borrelly and Wild 2, which gave us the best close-ups, were bone dry. See articles Electric Comet Could Burn the House of Science:
And Comets Impact Cosmology
So the Deep Impact mission could prove to be an acid test. The electric theorists have made their position clear, and there won't be much wiggle room for the conventional "dirty snowball" hypothesis. If water is not observed to explode from the surface at the projectile's impact, a domino effect will be set loose. An absence of water would mean there is no mainstream model left, only the electric model would remain. A single event could thus alter the mindset of all who work in the theoretical sciences: it would mark the end of the imagined "electrically neutral" universe lurking behind every statement we heard from David Morrison.
Morrison confidently dismissed the idea of recent catastrophe in the solar system, telling us that the real catastrophes occurred "4.5 billion years ago." How does he "know" this? The confidence begins with a rigid adherence to the nebular theory, and ends with a practice at which the electric theorists can only grimace: counting craters to determine the ages of a planet's or moon's surface. The fewer the craters, the "logic" goes, the more recent the events that re-surfaced an area.
Even orthodox planetary scientists are coming to realize that crater counting doesn't work. See article - Crater Count Led Mars Historians Astray, March 2005 New Scientist.
For the cosmic electricians, the idea of counting craters is absurd. They see the defining surface features of planets and moons as the signature of brief catastrophic episodes of electric discharge, in a phase of solar system history that continued until surprisingly recent times. According to these investigators, every planet shows electrical re-sculpting from pole to pole, often with strange hemispheric differences as if scarring occurred briefly from a single direction. They propose a simple and direct way to resolve the question. Since plasma discharge events are scalable, they claim the dominant features on planets and moons can ONLY be produced by electric discharge, and they are eager to see rigorous testing of this extraordinary claim. Without any funding from NASA, they have already begun the process, and the results are simply staggering. (See Martian Blueberries in the Lab, Link:
Of course David Morrison was certain that no dramatic changes in the configuration of the solar system have occurred across billions of years. But in agreement with Immanuel Velikovsky, many proponents of the Electric Universe contend that our early ancestors witnessed Earth-changing catastrophes. So on this point, they do not just speak of scientific evidence, but of HUMAN TESTIMONY. They tell us that only a few thousand years ago the sky was ablaze with electrical fireworks and that humans witnessing these events recorded them through every means available-
They drew pictures of plasma formations in the heavens. Link:
From one land to another they recounted stories of cosmic thunderbolts that altered world history. (See Chapter Two of Thunderbolts of the Gods,
In ritual prayers and monument building, they constructed imitations of the plasma formations in the sky. (See Chapter 3 of Thunderbolts of the Gods, above link.)
And in their astronomical traditions they preserved a global memory of PLANETS as the towering gods of a former time. (Also Chapter 3).
In laying the groundwork for a new approach to solar system history, Talbott and Thornhill write-
"A costly misunderstanding of planetary history must now be corrected. The misunderstanding arose from fundamental errors within the field of cosmology, the 'queen' of the theoretical sciences. Mainstream cosmologists, whether trained as physicists, mathematicians, or astronomers, consider gravity to be the controlling force in the heavens. From this assumption arose the doctrine of eons-long solar system stability-the belief that under the rule of gravity the nine planets have moved on their present courses since the birth of the solar system. Seen from this vantage point, the ancient fear of the planets can only appear ludicrous.
"We challenge this modern belief. We contend that humans once saw planets suspended as huge spheres in the heavens. Immersed in the charged particles of a dense plasma, celestial bodies 'spoke' electrically and plasma discharge produced heaven-spanning formations above the terrestrial witnesses. In the imagination of the ancient myth-makers, the planets were alive: they were the gods, the ruling powers of the sky-awe inspiring, often capricious, and at times wildly destructive."
It has been said that no great advance has ever been made without controversy. More than 5 decades after the Velikovsky firestorm, questions first posed by Velikovsky can no longer be ignored. At stake here is not just the billions of dollars NASA has wasted chasing chimeras, but the very integrity of scientific exploration. Also at stake is the ability of the sciences to attract and inspire new generations. And nothing is more inspirational than a sense of being on the edge of discovery.
No matter the outcome of this long-standing battle, the time of reckoning is at hand. The voice of Velikovsky's ghost WILL be heard.



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