Our friend Annette linked me to a pdf called Gould Velikovsky, a collection of essays on the continuing Velikovsky affair. I have read now just about everything I can get my hands on regarding this man and his treatment by the scientific community, and have come to regard him as a personal hero. He suffered scorn and ridicule, most notably at the hands of Carl Sagan.
Charles Ginenthal exposes Sagan in his book Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, and I have come to regard Sagan as a charlatan. I have also come to suspect that men like Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking are/were used to be the public face of science to protect dark and dirty secrets. Each would know, for example, that the moon landings were a hoax, and yet each, reputed to be among the smartest men around, affirm that they really happened. It is a confidence game. The public does not read or think well, and runs to authority figures, “experts” provided at every turn. In the Velikovsky affair, Sagan was uncritically accepted as an authoritative source, and thereby got away with dirty tricks and character assassination.
Gould Velikovsky is also a cyber book over 1,400 pages in length. That is more a vocation than a casual read, but I will be dabbling in it over the coming months. I do that because I am a senior citizen and get up in the morning at ridiculous hours, and have nothing better to do.
Today I want to highlight one passage that hit a nerve, from The Original Velikovsky Affair, An Idea That Just Would Not Go Away, by Irving Wolfe:
“In 1950, at its annual meeting, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (hereinafter the AAAS), organized a panel discussion on publishing responsibility, chaired by speech specialist Warren Guthrie and including geologist Kirtly Mather of Harvard and several publishers’ representatives. They sought a method to regulate the publication of books so as to make them “acceptable to the scientific fraternity.” Among the proposals were a review board, a set of very firm editorial principals and/or a jury of the author’s peers, to prevent what Velikovsky did, who “bypassed astronomers and geologists and went straight to the general public.” Velikovsky was held up as someone who had become successful with the gullible masses because he had evaded the judgment of his peers, and this must not be allowed to happen any further. (It was a session about censorship). The panel understood, however, that book publishers have to sell books, and “even the most arrant nonsense might occasionally justify publication—even as does a Forever Amber or Anthony Adverse,” (both published by Macmillan). But serious works would have to be written either by accepted science writers or scientists, or by approved ghost writers who would adhere to the Club rules and beliefs, but never by a maverick like Velikovsky, who does not follow the rules. Velikovsky, himself, of course, who was the cause and topic of the meeting, was not invited to hear or respond. It was a trial without the defendant allowed to be present, and the prosecutor was also the judge.” [My emphasis]
As a practicing CPA, I was subject to peer review by my colleagues, something I dreaded and managed to avoid throughout my career. I suppose you could say that in my line of work, peer review is set up to protect the public from unprofessional work. I get that. But I always resented the idea that strangers would come into my office, rifle my files, critique my work and render me powerless if I had not done things their way. I was self-employed for a reason – freedom from bosses. (Why do most people think it perfectly normal that we are all given bosses?)
The passage above is not about protecting the public. It is about protecting scientists; it is about censorship. It is infuriating. Had such a system been in place, the public would never had been exposed to Velikovsky and is ideas – not because he was wrong or unprofessional or a pseudo-scientist, but because he was not a member of the club. They were protecting each other, just as the Catholic Church protected itself by punishing Galileo Galilei, or so the history reads. (Historians were also diminished by Velikovsky’s work.)
Here’s a another passage from Wolfe:
A symposium entitled “Some Unorthodoxies in American Science” was organized by the American Philosophical Society in April of 1952, two years after the publication of WIC and significantly just before Velikovsky’s second book, Ages in Chaos, was to appear. There was to be a paper on Velikovsky by Payne-Gaposchkin, and Velikovsky attended the meeting with his wife and O’Neill. The first speaker was I. Bernard Cohen, (historian of science, Harvard), who referred to “an inertia of the mind, or a resistance to change, or a kind of scientific orthodoxy,” conditions which “prevent scientists from accepting the “logical” consequences of their own discoveries.” He then spoke of Velikovsky in this light, and said (as O’Neill reported) that “The degree of violence with which a new idea is rejected by scientific orthodoxy may prove to be an index of its importance.” [My emphasis.]
That, to me, explains Sagan – his career was on the line, his considerable ego, his reputation, all of which he deemed more important than pursuit of truth. As Ginenthal says in his preface,
“I must admit that doing the research for this book over about an eight-year period has brought to my attention much more than I had imagined regarding Sagan’s critique. It has been a deeply saddening experience to discover again and again the crassness of Sagan’s work on Velikovsky. It has also been a deeply shocking experience to learn the political nature of the way science operates. Even if Velikovsky’s theories are completely wrong, no one deserves to be maligned as he has been. The deceit exposed in the following pages is an outrage to decency.”
More than just Sagan, this is a condemnation of science in general. These days most scientists are on bended knee before the government and NGO’s, seeking funding. With that we can easily see that they lose objectivity, and that money determines outcomes. I have seen bad science in my time in the fields of climatology, virology and nutrition. Neither anthropogenic climate change nor current standards for diet and good health have good science behind them. Two viruses, HIV and Zika, are hoaxes. So-called “science” in these fields it is follow-the-money. Failure to adhere to groupthink leads to ostracism, loss of career and promotion of bunk. Anthropogenic climate change is, in my view, a hoax with hundreds, if not thousands of scientists, knowingly or not, participating.
There is too much money in science, too many scientists, and the result is bad science. In the meantime, the public spokespersons for science, these days in astronomy Neil deGrasse Tyson, are uncritically accepted by the public as go-to sources. The underlying dishonesty is both enlightening and discouraging. It can only be done, in my view, to protect lies of our times from the light of day.