Velikovsky Revisited

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Velikovsky Revisited

#1  Postby lpetrich » Jun 23, 2017 6:28 pm

Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) was a Freudian psychoanalyst who became a cosmic catastrophist. After around a decade of research, he came out with his magnum opus, Worlds in Collision. That book proposed a dramatic revision of the recent history of the Solar System, "recent" being the last few thousand years. He proposed that the Solar System suffered some big catastrophes that were remembered in a large number of myths and legends.

The planet Jupiter ejected a giant comet, an event that was remembered as Athena being born from Zeus's head. The comet then had some near-collisions with the Earth, doing such things as the Ten Plagues of Egypt, parting the Red Sea for Moses, raining down hydrocarbons and carbohydrates such as manna, and stopping the Earth's rotation so that Joshua could win one of his battles. This comet then almost-collided with Mars and settled down in its present orbit as the planet Venus. Mars in turn did some near-collisions with the Earth before settling down.

When astronomers learned of this book, they were furious, and they boycotted his publisher, Macmillan. That publisher had a sizable textbook department, so they dropped the book. Doubleday accepted the book, and it was much less vulnerable to such boycotts. Ever since, IV's defenders have considered him a martyr because of that.

Spacecraft exploration of the Solar System was underway by the 1960's, with spacecraft returning some startling observations and measurements. IV and his followers claimed that these results were a complete vindication of Worlds in Collision. In 1974, the American Association for the Advancement of Science had a conference on IV's ideas, and Carl Sagan contributed a lengthy analysis of WiC. In his research, he discussed the book with a leading professor of Semitic literatures, and while that professor considered IV's discussions of those literatures to be nonsense, he was impressed by the book's astronomy. CS had the opposite impression.

That is a problem with evaluating IV's writing. It seems very impressive, except when it is about something that one knows something about. Then it's nonsensical.


IV went on to write some other books, like Ages and Chaos, featuring a big revision in New-Kingdom Egyptian chronology, and Earth in Upheaval, where he tried to revive early 19th cy. catastrophist geology. The geologists who advocated such catastrophes were old-earthers who believed that the Earth had suffered several catastrophes, with Noah's Flood being its most recent catastrophe. But from around 1850 to around 1950, catastrophism had a bad reputation among geologists, and they preferred uniformitarian hypotheses, extrapolation from the present day while avoiding catastrophes much larger than any well-documented ones. Catastrophism has made a comeback over the last half-century, though it coexists with such uniformitarianism as continental drift. This is in part due to improved ability to test hypotheses of large catastrophes, like impacts of small asteroids. In fact, the current favorite theory of the origin of the Moon is very Velikovskian: a Mars-sized object hitting the Earth and some of the splatter going into orbit and condensing to form the Moon. Part of the testing of that hypothesis is doing simulated collisions and watching what happens in them.


Carl Sagan concluded that where IV was right, he was almost certainly not original, and that where IV was original, he was almost certainly not right. Also, as CS noted, there is much in IV's work that is neither right nor original, like his cosmic catastrophism. William Whiston, Ignatius Donnelly, and Hanns Hoerbiger had proposed similar sorts of theories before him, but he barely mentioned them.


It's hard to find Velikovsky defenders these days -- could Velikovskyism be going the way of Hoerbigerism, becoming a historical curiosity?
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#2  Postby crank » Jun 23, 2017 7:19 pm

I thought it went on that trip a couple of decades ago.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#3  Postby KeenIdiot » Jun 23, 2017 10:00 pm

I've met a few hardliners defenders, noticed the old electric universe Hypothesis crowd has been growing some and Velikovsky is popular with them.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#4  Postby Manticore » Jun 24, 2017 11:21 am

I read as much of it as I could stand when I was about 12. Even then I could see that it was complete and utter crap.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#5  Postby DavidMcC » Jun 24, 2017 2:04 pm

KeenIdiot wrote:I've met a few hardliners defenders, noticed the old electric universe Hypothesis crowd has been growing some and Velikovsky is popular with them.

That's bad news for science, if they acquire any political clout, that is. :nono:
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#6  Postby lpetrich » Jun 24, 2017 2:27 pm

crank wrote:I thought it went on that trip a couple of decades ago.

What trip? I don't see what you mean.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#7  Postby crank » Jun 24, 2017 2:38 pm

lpetrich wrote:
crank wrote:I thought it went on that trip a couple of decades ago.

What trip? I don't see what you mean.

It's a reply to the last bit in your post right above mine. My timing is off, I probably should have said a few decades.
It's hard to find Velikovsky defenders these days -- could Velikovskyism be going the way of Hoerbigerism, becoming a historical curiosity?
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#8  Postby lpetrich » Jun 24, 2017 3:19 pm

KeenIdiot wrote:I've met a few hardliners defenders, noticed the old electric universe Hypothesis crowd has been growing some and Velikovsky is popular with them.

Velikovsky himself was an early advocate of electric-universe notions: Cosmos Without Gravitation (1946)

THE FUNDAMENTAL theory of this paper is: Gravitation is an electromagnetic phenomenon. There is no primary motion inherent in planets and satellites. Electric attraction, repulsion, and electromagnetic circumduction(1) govern their movements. The moon does not “fall,” attracted to the earth from an assumed inertial motion along a straight line, nor is the phenomenon of objects falling in the terrestrial atmosphere comparable with the “falling effect” in the movement of the moon, a conjecture which is the basic element of the Newtonian theory of gravitation.


He then described a lot of gravity-defying effects, like our atmosphere being well-mixed and not sorted out by molecular weight, water droplets in clouds, the Sun's approximate sphericity, and the like. Except that none of them presents any problem for gravity.

He then got into some theoretical problems for gravity.

Gravitation acts in no time. Laplace calculated that, in order to keep the solar system together, the gravitational pull must propagate with a velocity at least fifty million times greater than the velocity of light. A physical agent requires time to cover distance. Gravitation defies time.

That is correct for a scalar gravitational potential, but general relativity features a tensor potential, and that produces some convenient cancellations.

Then the problem of lack of anything in between. That's where field theories come in, and GR features distortion of space-time as its field.

Then how gravity can't be blocked and how everything in the Universe must be pulled apart from gravity acting on all side.

He then claims that his electromagnetic theory of gravity can explain why the planets' orbits are approximately coplanar, why comets' tails point away from the Sun, and gravity-defying atmospheric effects.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#9  Postby DavidMcC » Jun 24, 2017 6:23 pm

lpetrich wrote:...

He then claims that his electromagnetic theory of gravity can explain why the planets' orbits are approximately coplanar.
...

He presumably ignores the fact that gravity also explains why the planets' orbits are approximately co-planar - they are all derived fron the same spun-up mass of gas and dust.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#10  Postby lpetrich » Jun 24, 2017 11:54 pm

DavidMcC wrote:
KeenIdiot wrote:I've met a few hardliners defenders, noticed the old electric universe Hypothesis crowd has been growing some and Velikovsky is popular with them.

That's bad news for science, if they acquire any political clout, that is. :nono:

Pseudosciences vary in politicization, with some advocates being very political and others not.

Creationists are very political, while vitalists are not, even though vitalists can make similar sorts of arguments.

-

The advocates of Hanns Hoerbiger's Welteislehre (WEL: Cosmic Ice Theory) were very political, using pressure tactics to get people to accept their theory. They'd sometimes heckle astronomers' meetings with "Out with astronomical orthodoxy! Give us Hoerbiger!" As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, WEL advocates associated themselves with it, saying things like

"Our Nordic ancestors grew strong in ice and snow; belief in the Cosmic Ice is consequently the natural heritage of Nordic Man."
"Just as it needed a child of Austrian culture--Hitler!--to put the Jewish politicians in their place, so it needed an Austrian to cleanse the world of Jewish science."
"The Fuehrer, by his very life, has proved how much a so-called 'amateur' can be superior to self-styled professionals; it needed another 'amateur' to give us a complete understanding of the Universe."
The Nazi government eventually felt compelled to issue a statement saying that one could be a good Nazi without believing in the WEL.

After the Nazis were defeated, the WEL's advocates dropped out, but they reappeared in the 1950's and 1960's, and then dropped out again. This is despite their being able to claim Velikovsky-style vindication from the large amounts of ice in the outer Solar System.

-

Then there is Lysenkoism. Trofim Lysenko was a breeder of crop plants and a quack geneticist who claimed that his experimental treatments could alter crop plants' heredity. He claimed that he could produce higher-performing crop plants much more easily than mainstream biologists could, and he got the support of Soviet Communist Party officials, including Joseph Stalin himself. After several years of struggle by Lysenkoites against mainstream biologists, Lysenkoism was made official dogma in 1948. He made a speech, Soviet Biology, and you can see what he was thinking. He ridiculed the notion of a hereditary substance as Mendelist Weismannist Morganist idealism, and he advocated the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Lysenkoism was devastating for Soviet biological research, even before its 1948 triumph. Several notable biologists were executed or sent to prison camps, like the eminent biologist Nikolai Vavilov. He is notable for proposing "Vavilov zones" of plant domestication, zones where the nearest wild relatives of domestic species live, and where the domestic species have the most variety.

After Stalin died in 1953, mainstream biology gradually recovered, and by the 1960's Lysenkoism was gone.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#11  Postby lpetrich » Jun 25, 2017 12:14 am

DavidMcC wrote:
lpetrich wrote:...

He then claims that his electromagnetic theory of gravity can explain why the planets' orbits are approximately coplanar.
...

He presumably ignores the fact that gravity also explains why the planets' orbits are approximately co-planar - they are all derived fron the same spun-up mass of gas and dust.

There was a nongravitational force involved here: collisions. Collisions between gas molecules and collisions between condensed objects from dust grains to full-scale planets.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#12  Postby KeenIdiot » Jun 25, 2017 9:23 am

lpetrich wrote:
KeenIdiot wrote:I've met a few hardliners defenders, noticed the old electric universe Hypothesis crowd has been growing some and Velikovsky is popular with them.

Velikovsky himself was an early advocate of electric-universe notions: Cosmos Without Gravitation (1946)

THE FUNDAMENTAL theory of this paper is: Gravitation is an electromagnetic phenomenon. There is no primary motion inherent in planets and satellites. Electric attraction, repulsion, and electromagnetic circumduction(1) govern their movements. The moon does not “fall,” attracted to the earth from an assumed inertial motion along a straight line, nor is the phenomenon of objects falling in the terrestrial atmosphere comparable with the “falling effect” in the movement of the moon, a conjecture which is the basic element of the Newtonian theory of gravitation.


He then described a lot of gravity-defying effects, like our atmosphere being well-mixed and not sorted out by molecular weight, water droplets in clouds, the Sun's approximate sphericity, and the like. Except that none of them presents any problem for gravity.

He then got into some theoretical problems for gravity.

Gravitation acts in no time. Laplace calculated that, in order to keep the solar system together, the gravitational pull must propagate with a velocity at least fifty million times greater than the velocity of light. A physical agent requires time to cover distance. Gravitation defies time.

That is correct for a scalar gravitational potential, but general relativity features a tensor potential, and that produces some convenient cancellations.

Then the problem of lack of anything in between. That's where field theories come in, and GR features distortion of space-time as its field.

Then how gravity can't be blocked and how everything in the Universe must be pulled apart from gravity acting on all side.

He then claims that his electromagnetic theory of gravity can explain why the planets' orbits are approximately coplanar, why comets' tails point away from the Sun, and gravity-defying atmospheric effects.

Oh sure, I get why he is popular with Electric Universe types. My point was Velikovsky is popular because of his influence in EU, instead of popularity on his own right.
Might be a distinction without a difference, but it seemed like he used to be popular which gave support to EU, whereas now he's virtually unknown except by EU followers.
The rest of what you wrote is very interesting but I am unable to really comprehend it.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#13  Postby DavidMcC » Jun 26, 2017 11:50 am

lpetrich wrote:
DavidMcC wrote:
lpetrich wrote:...

He then claims that his electromagnetic theory of gravity can explain why the planets' orbits are approximately coplanar.
...

He presumably ignores the fact that gravity also explains why the planets' orbits are approximately co-planar - they are all derived fron the same spun-up mass of gas and dust.

There was a nongravitational force involved here: collisions. Collisions between gas molecules and collisions between condensed objects from dust grains to full-scale planets.

I'm sure collisions play a role too.
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Re: Velikovsky Revisited

#14  Postby DavidMcC » Jun 26, 2017 1:32 pm

Collisions are also fundamental to the thermodynamic properties and behaviour of gases - you wouldn't recognize a gas without collisions, because it would be a superfluid.
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