Re: "Sagan and Velikovsky" to appear in local book stores

Mark C. Chu-Carroll (
24 Jan 1995 16:40:51 GMT

>>>>> "Mike" == Mike Zorn <> writes:
In article <ozma.790895870@kaiwan> (Mike Zorn) writes:

Mike> A general comment: What bothers me is not so much that
Mike> everyone (from the scientific community) thought that Velikovsky
Mike> was wrong, but the way he was attacked, castigated, condemmned,
Mike> etc., etc. It would have been sufficient to publish: here's
Mike> what he says; here's where it's wrong, and leave it at that.

First, you have to remember that a lot of what's gone on has been

The original stir was caused because astronomers were highly upset at
the idea that "Worlds in Collision" was initially going to be
published as an astronomy textbook. Now, if you've ever read _WiC_,
and you have any astronomy background, you'd have to agree that it's
absolutely ridiculous as astronomy.

This was the initial cause of the whole mess: astronomers told the
publisher that if this thing was published *as an astronomy textbook*,
they would not do business with that publisher. Now, that may sound
horrid - but it isn't quite as bad as it sounds. When people see a
really trashy textbook published under a certain imprint, they tend to
assume that that imprint isn't careful about what it publishes. It
biases readers against anything printed under that imprint. So when
your serious cosmology text is published alongside of _WiC_, the flaws
in _WiC_ will reflect against your own work.

No one wanted Velikovsky's view to not be published at all. The goal
was to have them published under *the appropriate imprint*. If _WiC_
was published as a comparative mythology book, there would never have
been any uproar at all.

Once this initial uproar happened, Velikovsky and his supporters tried
to inflate it into something monstrous: the Scientific Establishment
didn't want to admit that it might be wrong, and so it was smearing
Velikovsky. And the scientific types responded to that - and it
continued to escalate. Once the escalation happened, the legitimate
refutations of Velikovsky were drowned out by the shouts of angry
people on both sides.

Velikovksy and his supporters are every bit as much to blame as
Velikovsky's critics. It's not as simple as you think it is.

The other side of this is that if scientists had to publish
refutations of every crackpot theory whose author claimed that he was
being censored, they'd never have time to get their work done. Just go
take a look over in sci.physics, and you'll get an idea at how many
crackpots there are, and how persistent they are.

The point is, Velikosky's supporters would like to claim that the
burden of proof lies with the so-called "Scientific
Establishment". Every time that some two-bit crackpot comes along with
a new idea, scientists are supposed to drop what they're doing, and
prove that the new idea is wrong before they can go on with their
work. That's not how things work: if you want to claim that current
theory, with all of the evidence that supports it is wrong, you have
to *prove* that.

It's been done numerous times.

Relativity overturned Newton. Quantum mechanics overturned standard
mechanics. A kind of catastrophic theory has overturned previous
geological theory. Punctuated equilibrium overturned continuous
evolution. And so on. In each case, there was a *lot* of resistance to
the new idea at first. But in each case, the originator of the theory
showed *overwhelming* evidence that they were correct. They took the
time, and carefully demonstrated that they were correct. And in each
case, they eventually won out, because they had evidence.

For Velikovsky's theories, the evidence isn't there. There are *huge*
dramatic errors in his theories. (Vermin on venus, hydrocarbons
becoming carbohydrates, pools of petroleum of Venus, a creation event
for Venus that would have *vaporized* the entire planet, etc.) Given
those fundamental errors, there's no reason to look further, unless
someone has overwhelming evidence to the contrary. No one has ever
managed to produce such evidence.

Mike> Another case, more recently, is the way Halton Arp was banished
Mike> to Europe for not following the party line. It appears that
Mike> Science is not much different than Religion in the espousal of
Mike> different views.

I'm not familiar with this case, so I can't comment.


|| Mark Craig Chu-Carroll: <MC> || "Only love
|| CIS Grad, Univ of Delaware || can make love"
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