Sunday, December 23, 2012

Worlds in Collision and The Velikovsky Heresies

Many years ago I picked up a couple of beat up copies of books by Immanuel Velikovsky at a used book store. I knew the name, but not much else. I figured maybe one day I would read them. Over the last year or so, I have become very interested in The Electric Universe theory and has become a favorite site of mine. They often mention Velikovsky, enough so that I finally sat down and read "Worlds in Collision". 

The main gist of Velikovsky's theory is that Venus started life as a comet, and within historical times. It was ejected from Jupiter around 1600 B.C. when a larger mass collided with the gas giant, and it had close encounters with both Earth and Mars before settling into it's current location. Velikovsky was a Russian born psychoanalyst, and a friend and contemporary of Einstein. When this book was published in 1950 it ignited a huge controversy. First of all, he was writing outside of his field. Second, he was contradicting accepted science at the time. Third, he was using ancient texts to support his theory, especially the Bible. None of this sat well with the scientific establishment of the time. It got worse, when various predictions he made, Venus would be hot, not cold as mainstream science believed, for example, turned out to be correct. In fact, the majority of what Velikovsky predicted seems to have been accurate. The attacks on him are astonishing, and have been covered in many other books. Carl Sagan made a special point of trying to take down Velikovsky, and many feel that he was successful. However a clear, unbiased look at what Sagan did, reveals that he actually failed to disprove Immanuel's theory, and that it was more of a hit job than anything else. Back to the book. It is a fascinating read. It was a best seller when it came out, and has held it's own for a long time after. It is well written, and detailed. And, yes, he does take passages from the bible to support his theory. However, he finds equating passages from other parts of the world to substantiate this. If one text says the sun stood still in the sky, he looks for, and finds, other texts from the same time period, from other parts of the world, that say the same thing. He shows that Venus is not mentioned by any cultures prior to a certain point, approximately 1600 B.C. He shows that it flew erratically around the heavens, and was a fearsome thing in the sky. He shows that it had a comet's tail, and was often referred to as comet's were. It is a stunning piece of work. I was pretty blown away when I got done. This book, however, was published in 1950. What I wanted to know was, has anything in our current understanding of science and history been found that soundly defeats Velikovsky's work? It seemed like a massive undertaking. Enter Laird Scranton...

Just about the time I was asking these questions, Laird Scranton published The Velikovsky Heresies, and hey, guess what, it is a book that answers that very question about how the theory has held up. From interviews I have heard with Laird, he went into this book with no bias one way or another. He did the research, took the main parts of Velikovsky's theory and searched to find out whether they stand or fall. For the most part, the theory has been more vindicated than debunked. Of course, when dealing with events of the distant past, it is hard to ever know for certain, but Laird, step by step, takes apart Velikovsky's theory and shows the current science that seems to support it (for example, we now know that Venus seems to still have the remnants of what seems to be a comet's tail!). It is a brilliant piece of work by it's own right, and my only complaint would be that I managed to read through it in about a day. There is a lot packed into the 130+ pages that make up this book, however. No theory is ever completely right, and of course that very much applies to Velikovsky, but Laird shows how much of the theory has held up over the 62 years since it was first published. It is impressive. You can easily read Laird's book without ever reading World's in Collision. I would, however, recommend reading both to get a more complete understanding of a theory that one day may completely change the way we look at our own solar system and planetary origins. 

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