-- The Other Group --
the success and failure of arguments
countering alternative cosmologies

Rens van der Sluijs:
Velikovsky's theory axed

Rens van der Sluijs "Velikovskian Chaff and Wheat: Venus" (March 27, 2009, at thunderbolts.info).

I need to quote this at length, because it represents the approved disposal of Velikovsky. The site where this essay is posted, is, after all, owned and operated by David Talbott. Vd Sluijs starts off with a statement of Rationalistic Science Credo, if I may borrow from Alfred de Grazia's essay "The Scientific Reception System" found in "The Velikovsky Affair" (1984). [note 1]

Vd Sluijs writes:

'One way that science progresses is through a careful evaluation of arguments advanced by earlier scholars in the field. For the sake of academic honesty, this has to be done in a completely dispassionate manner. The work of pioneers, Nobel-prize winners and other prestigious people cannot be judged by different standards than that of the least noticed postgraduate student.'

'The maverick Russian-American polymath, Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979), deserves recognition for his pioneering statements about the role of electromagnetic activity in space and the importance of catastrophic events even in historically recent periods. Yet science has no place for worship and it is incumbent on modern researchers to scrupulously evaluate each of Velikovskys many claims in the light of current knowledge.'

This is exactly what I have done, by the way. Piecemeal I have evaluate Velikovsky's collected data points and his claims. What you will notice here, however, is no such procedure. Instead, all of Velikovsky is summarily jettisoned. This will be introduced with the same acrid reading that Stephan Gould used in 1977: "Mars then left its regular position and almost collided with the earth." Using such nonsense to introduce the ideas of Velikovsky sets the reader up to reject lesser claims.

'One of Velikovskys boldest ideas was that the planet Venus is a relative newcomer in the solar system: during the mid-2nd millennium BCE, it would have erupted from the interior of the planet Jupiter and have inflicted damage to the earth's atmosphere and biosphere with its conspicuous cometary tail before settling in its present orbit and shedding its appendage. How does this analysis fare when approached today with an open but a sternly critical mind?'

'To begin with the negative end of the spectrum, many of the sources Velikovsky cited in support of the Venus theory need to be axed. Of the numerous ethnic traditions of catastrophic import he cites, involving darkness, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, celestial combat and an inversion of east and west, hardly a single one bears any apparent connection to Venus or the 2nd millennium BCE.'

I don't think so. Actually this may be correct. I have found many displaces items in Velikovsky's book, but was able to assign them instead to two other dates, some to 2349 BC, and many more to the 8th century BC. The lack of tales from 1500 BC (the Exodus) is likely due to the dimming of sunlight for a period of 40 years. Mesoamerica says, a generation. The failure of agriculture and starvation was amore pressing matter. Only the Jews made it into an important religious event.

The reluctance of the Saturnians to recognize the above listed catastophies stems from the fact that neither of these dates are known or recognized by them. Under those conditions, the facts become so obscure that they are forced to conclude that the events are simply not applicable to Velikovsky's thesis concerning Venus and the Exodus. The Saturnians are kept from reaching any conclusions about other times and events (even though it is as plain as the noses on their faces) because of the deadening hypothesis, modeled after Campbell, that all myths are derived as retellings from a single event around 3100 BC. As a result, mythology is a closed paradigm. With no alternatives to assign data to, the events can only be thrown out.

The inversion of east and west, and the like (earth turning upside down) are just a failure to think through how perceived events are understood. This sort of event was reported by Velikovsky from sources in antiquity, along with hundreds of other notions from diverse texts. But none of these represent the lynchpin in a theory of catastrophy. Some are wrong, some are misunderstood texts, many do not matter, and many will never be properly explained. I frankly do not see what the concern is. The theory of an interaction between Venus and Earth in 1500 BC stands, despite disconnected details. We can add to this the electrical contact with Venus in 2350 BC, which really impressed humanity, and which, by the way, is much better documented. And the shock by Mars in 747 BC, by Mercury in 686 BC, and the plasmoid from Jupiter in 685 BC.

'The entire discussion of the comet Typhon, though important in its own right, really bears no relationship to Venus, except, perhaps, for the very tenuous chronological association implied in the contrived chronicles of a much later date. Moreover, Velikovsky's observation that in the third millennium only four planets could have been seen, and that in astronomical charts of this early period the planet Venus cannot be found has been proven plain wrong.'

The bias of phrasing like "tenuous chronological association" and "contrived chronicles" will no doubt achieve their end in setting up the reader to agree with the resounding conclusion of "proven plain wrong." Amazing, Typhon is here, through a miracle, disgruntedly associated with Venus, even though the text reads "really bears no relationship." But it would take some imagination to follow through on a possible plasma and electric field interactions between Venus and Earth -- from a distance, I should note, of 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 miles. The multiple heads of Typhon are the separate columns of plasma in arc mode seen when viewed up into the source. See the papers by Peratt, where this is demonstrated, and equated with the patterns of earlier henges and petroglyphs.

Chronicles were not "contrived" in remote antiquity, they were maintained with scrupulous accuracy, carefully guarded against corruption. These dealt with God. Only today will "contrived" narratives be found.

Last, Velikovsky dealt with the question of when Venus was added to the 'list planets,' that is, recognized as a planet like Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. Of course it would appear on lists, but that says nothing about its perceived status. The question throughout both remote antiquity and recent antiquity, must have been, "what on earth is that object that behaves so strangly?" If the Electric Universe people had a little more imagination they would be able to watch Venus contract its tail and expand it again ("the going up of Sothis," the Egyptians called it), ride across the daytime sky, and disappear for months on end. No other planet had a variable tail, no other planet traveled about in the same manner.

Vd Sluijs then proceeds to prove that Venus (or a name associated with Venus) appeared in Mesopotamian records (where he means 'legends'), and in Egypt as "spdt" -- Sothis with a feminine ending.

'Though astronomical charts or, indeed, any form of astronomy did not yet exist prior to the 2nd millennium BCE, incontrovertible evidence for Venus existence has been uncovered in Mesopotamian records dating from the 2nd half of the 4th millennium BCE onwards. Sumerian texts of this early date plainly identify the goddess Inanna as a star associated with the morning and the evening. Egyptologists are agreed that the / sb? dw?t/ or the morning star abundantly mentioned in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, finalised in 2200 BCE, is the planet Venus.'

The Pyramid texts were not finalized in 2200 BC. They received a full fledged initiation 150 years earlier, in 2345 BC, very soon after the cataclysm of 2349 BC. After that they were never ever finished, evolving yet in Ptolemaic times. Before 2345 BC there was nothing, except a few lines on coffins.

The Pyramid Texts also spring up as a fully realized theology of Osiris, who had never been heard of before. That represents a gap of 800 years between the end of the "Age of the Gods" and the first mention of any of the spells on which the whole of Talbott's "Saturn Theory" book of 1980 is based. The Saturnian writers never reveal dates or social circumstances for the mythological text or the use of emblems. This is one of my complaints: nothing can be evaluated progressively, or linked to normal human social development.

The feminine ending for Sothis ("spd.t") signifies Isis, that is, Venus. Vd Sluijs has this expanded as /sb? dw?t/ above. But it still reads "Sothis," and almost all Egyptologists think of it as representing the bright star Sirius, rather than Venus. Vd Sluijs is going against tradition here, but I agree.

'While Velikovsky's claim of a recent [appearance of] Venus was reasonable and worth testing, it has now been falsified and must be binned. If anything, Venus is the first one of the planets to be mentioned in the Mesopotamian literature.'

I did not ever get the impression that Velikovsky proposed a "recent appearance" [my wording] for Venus, except the strange suggestion that Venus jumped out of Jupiter. The story is from Roman sources, and can be dismissed. Better yet, we can explain where this story came from. Likewise, there is no "incontrovertible evidence" for Venus in Mesopotamian "records." There are no "records" only a few much later tales retold in Akkadian times. This is almost all we have to go on.

And now for the good news:

'Nevertheless, from the perspective of historical sources, at least three of Velikovskys conclusions concerning Venus must be salvaged and can be strengthened with much additional evidence.' 'First, Velikovskys citation of the Roman intellectual, Varro, to the effect that Venus changed its color, size, form, course, which never happened before nor since, presents a genuine puzzle to modern historians of the solar system. The citation itself is unambiguous and not suspicious, but it needs to be resolved exactly how and when Venus colour, appearance and movement were modified.'

This might be a problem for the Saturnians, if they will again suggest that this happened in 3100 BC, without the slightest thought of how Varro was either aware of this event from 3000 years earlier or had any interest in it, when Roman historians could not even agree on the date of the founding of Rome, only 700 years earlier.

But what Varro is talking about is the event of June through July of the astronomical year 685 BC, although 500 years before his time, which is perhaps why he is not very specific. Varro lived in the first century BC, oversaw the Library of Rome, was a noted historian, and the supreme intellectual of his day.

'In addition, the so-called Venus Tablet of Ammizaduga (7th century BCE?), which presents the oldest known set of Venus observations, remains a mystery. Specialists are urged to investigate whether the data given in the tablet could consistently describe not the present orbit of Venus, but any other course the planet might have followed.'

There is, in fact a direct relationship between Varro's statement and the Venus Tablet of Ammizaduga (and the 7th century BC). Perhaps Rens van der Sluijs has read my website. I arrived at these conclusions in 2004. I have pinpointed this event, to the year, the months, days, and recently, to the hour of its conclusion.

Lynn Rose and Raymond Vaughan tackled the Venus Tablet of Ammizaduga in 1994. Rose today has 47 articles to his credit; Vaughan has 9. But I think the Saturnian people cannot imagine orbits, have no feel for "normalization of data," and don't know what to make of "planetary orbital eccentricities" -- all of which Rose and Vaughan talk about in their 1994 presentation. The result is that their work has been entirely neglected. Does vd Sluijs also know nothing of this?

Even a cursory look at the canonical values of the Venus calendar of the Maya as shown in the Dresden Codex (dating to AD 700) will settle all bets: Venus was on an orbit with a different eccentricity even well into the current era.

Meanwhile, I offer the following two quotations as leads:

'..I reflected on the modern scientific process,' wrote David W. Wolfe, in "Tales from the Underground" (2001), a book on soil composition, also invoking the Rationalistic Science Credo: 'We are seeking truth, a deeper understanding of the world around us, but no one want to get involved in a wild goose chase. Most of the criticism that Woese [Carl Woese, who genetically separated methanogens from other bacteria as a separate kingdom now named Archaea] has faced, and contious to deal with, is based on legitimate concerns of dedicated scientists, not on petty jealousies. Peer review of grant proposals and publications and many other, more subtle barriers have been established to prevent one renegade scientist from leading us all over the cliff and into the dreaded Abyss of False Theories.'

I think, however, that it is indeed jealousy, plus a stubborn know-it-all attitudes. If the line about "dreaded Abyss" doesn't establish the carnival flavor of the statement, then "legitimate concerns" would. There is nothing legitimate about the violent or silent reaction of the academy. It is all about self doubt and perceived insults. Edward T. Hall, in "Beyond Culture" (1976), probably put his finger on how such information is viscerally received:

'When other people call attention to [an error], suggesting that the world is not as one preceives it, these observations can be unsettling. To do so is to suggest that a person is incompetent, not properly motivated, ignorant, or even infantile.'

Two more:

'Second, Velikovsky's argument that Venus once sported a cometary tail stands up to close scrutiny and can be buttressed with a mass of additional evidence. In modern terms, a plausible explanation for the ancient testimony would be the assumption that Venus large magnetosphere had acquired a visible glow in historical times, at a time when the inner solar system was brimming with electrical activity.'

The "mass of additional evidence" reduces to a single item: a tail has been detected in dark mode plasma. But this is very frail evidence, for all planets have tails. Venus does not have a magnetosphere, so suggesting to upsize it into the past or "in historical times," adds nothing. In fact, a magnetosphere would have retained much more of its tail. Instead, we are faced with the possibility of the Solar Wind continuously stripping ionized atoms from the upper atmosphere of Venus. Not even conceived of by the Saturnians is the fact that in all likelyhood the electrical field of the Sun collapsed in 685 BC. There are other indications in addition that the tail of Venus disappeared instantly.

'Third, Velikovsky rightly drew attention to the voluminous body of mythical traditions concerning the birth of the morning star. The spectacular ascent to heaven of the feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, in Aztec mythology, is a textbook example for this motif. However, Velikovsky hopelessly muddled the issue by force-fitting this mythical event into the 15th century BCE.'

There is no "spectacular ascent to heaven" in Aztec times, AD 1200 to AD 1500. Certainly the Europeans would have noticed this also? Vd Sluijs is "hopelessly muddled" on this issue. It was concluded 1800 years before the Aztecs showed up. Don't trust the Aztecs. They destroyed all the history books of the tribes they conquered. There was only Aztec history. Look for Quetzalcoatl in other, much earlier history in Mesoamerica. He did not rise to heaven, only his soul rose, as a star.

At this point vd Sluijs continues with some concluding remarks:

'In reality, the birth of the morning star represents one of the final chapters in the global cycle of creation mythology. In the traditions of numerous cultures, the background to the story is the transfer of mythical beings such as gods and ancestors from their original home on the earth into the sky, where they live on in the form of celestial bodies. When the protagonists of the myth were thus placed in the sky as stars and planets, the hitherto dark sky was for the first time illuminated and the process of creation reached completion. This episode bears a close relationship to the collapse of the polar column and is best evaluated on a par with the mythology of the axis mundi as a whole. It cannot be isolated from this narrative context.'

'In conclusion, Velikovsky's conviction that Venus originated no earlier than 1500 BCE is untenable. Nevertheless, more robust than ever is the case that Venus has experienced a recent change in its orbit, however slight; that it featured a filamentary tail; and that its first appearance formed part of the complex chain of events anciently known as creation.'

From the website of Rens van der Sluijs, one item from a list of 'some key ideas' in his polar plasma column theory:

single prototype: Many of the most prominent myths, widely reflected in rituals and traditional icons and centring on the themes of 'creation', 'world destruction' and cosmology, trace back to *a single prototype*, even if the astronomical reality behind this prototype may in reality have been stretched out over several centuries. The narrated events form a *coherent sequence*, not a disparate assemblage of nature symbols.

This is a formal expression of Talbott's "comparative method" -- which probably ought to be called the "comparative thesis" -- and which is the subject of a [separate] discourse.


Endnotes

Note 1 --

The rationalistic reception system is openly displayed by scientists in general as the `scientific method.' It is considered in proto-thought to be the exclusive determinant of admission policies to the corpus of science. Its goal is truth, enlightenment, knowledge, or just simply `science.' It postulates a purity of science, namely that the propositions and methods of scientists are arrived at only by efficient, logico-empirical operations. Personal animosities, psychopathology, politics and other social conditions are ignored, reduced in importance, or denied a place in the scheme of science.

-- Alfred de Grazia, "The Scientific Reception System" in "The Velikovsky Affair" (1966)
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