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

[started 2009.07.26]

Letters to Leroy

[Leroy Ellenberger] has been hacking away at the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky and David Talbott for years, originally with letters and postcard mailings and posts to Usenet talk groups, and currently with broadcast emails to a large group of people (maybe a hundred).

Leroy is as indefatigable as a medieval inquisitioner in his pursuit of the errors of others, and as stern in his reprimands, which at times reduce to name calling. I have gotten caught up on occasions in the past, but more recently I have just reacted explosively to his diatribes, at least one of which [leaked] out to a few people in August 2008, although Leroy did not receive it. So as a result he did not see my quote from Umberto Eco on why students in astronomy might conform to orthodoxy...

'A nonbeliever, I felt guilty in the midst of all those believers. And since it seemed to me that they were in the right, I decided to believe, as you might decided to take an asprin: It can't hurt, and you might get better.'-- Umberto Eco "Foucault's Pendulum" (1988)

Subsequently, after some straightforward emails with Leroy on other matters, I again got so impatient and angry at the bullshit being propagated on the Neo-Velikovskian front that another [nasty] one got sent (and was received), saying, in effect, that Clube and Napier's comets were a crock, and Korbes was full of shit. That was in August of 2008.

Leroy, as has been his practice, castigated me in front of thousands (actually only about 30 people, members of the Velikovsky listserv and a few more names attached to his email in BCC form):

"Jno, With all due respect, as the saying goes, you do not know what you are talking about. It is clear to me that you, along with Talbott, Cardona and Cochrane, are a master of what Dennis Rawlins described as "Freudian Astronomy" in his debunk of ... bla bla bla."

I answered with..

"Take an aspirin, Leroy. It might help.
more later /j"

Another irate volley followed, partially in response to the fact that I deleted about half of the CC list. I won't quote the email. I answered him with..

"It's from Umberto Eco, Leroy. I thought you might know.
I'll respond to your longer email(s) when I have more time."


Who's got the time? It has been a year, and I'm just getting started. It is possible to answer Leroy's wild claims of what he frequently calls "PROOF" that Velikovski, Talbott, Thornhill, or others are *so* wrong, but by the time you write up the facts which demonstrate, for example, that the Moon is a bad example of what Leroy claims as PROOF of the "stability of the Universe," Leroy has moved on to another topic, to quotations from experts, or he is dredging up statements made 10 or 20 years ago.

I have been on his mailing list as a BCC entry on occasion, and at times I seem to have fallen off the list (the condition currently). Leroys' emails are actually of some use, for he forces others to think through their claims, and I have a few times used his information as a source for the content of my website at [Saturnian Cosmology].

Leroy used to write for the Saturnian folks (at Aeon or Kronos, I think), became disaffected, and turned on them. They argued back and forth on the Usenet, but Leroy is a reader and researcher, so he can bring much information to bear on his relentless arguments.

A decade ago the Usenet participants (probably talk.origins) must have realized that it was a total waste of time to engage him, for, if Ellenberger wasn't winning, at least he was getting all the attention. At that point it must have become obvious that it would be better to be silent.

The turning point had come for Leroy in 1982. As his "wikipedia" entry reads (likely edited by Leroy)...

"His confidence in the validity of Velikovsky's ideas was shaken in January 1982 when Kronos sponsored his attendance at the semi-annual AAAS meeting in Washington, D.C., in order to distribute information on Velikovsky. In a wide-ranging conversation with Jeremy Cherfas, then a writer for the British weekly science magazine New Scientist over how the press misunderstood Velikovsky, Cherfas had counter-arguments to many points that Ellenberger was not able to rebut."

The sentence structure in this instance is entirely 'Classical Ellenberger.' But what I recall from earlier perusal of the Usenet and from emails received (and before Wikipedia became a 'confident source' of information) is the severe antagonism toward David Talbott, Ev Cochrane, Dwardu Cardona, and others. Knowing nothing of details, the impression one gets is that Leroy was slighted, and he was getting even with a vengeance.

At any rate, on April 1, 2003, Leroy expressed to me his own perceived status, as...

"I have been largely discounted and ignored by most of the Velikovsky and Saturnist cadre in recent years while I am a primary source for mainstream writers who need such information for a current project."

This was followed, in the same email, with...

"I can't get over the stubbornness of the diehard Velikovskians and their refusal to reject their early beliefs in favor of more sensible models, such as that of Clube and Napier."

Leroy recognized full well that the critique of Velikovsky from mainstream sources was also seriously flawed. Writing elswhere:

"Most often, spokesmen for mainstream science such as Sagan, Asimov, Gardner, and Oberg have not expressed their criticisms using valid arguments but, rather, tend to substitute polemic, ridicule, and caricature for serious discussion. The resulting performances are riddled with errors and are received by Velikovskian partisans with diminished credibility."

That is an astute observation and Leroy is absolutely correct in this. I would, in fact, substitute "no credibility at all" for "diminished credibility." It also seconds de Grazia's comments of 1978..

"Thousands of scientists and scholars have impugned his [Velikovsky's] work. A few have stepped up to bat against him or one of his team: they put on airs; they dance about; they come up unprepared; they take blundering swipes at the ball; they strike out."

There is (or was) some hope of achieving an even tone with the on-line [Velikovsky Encyclopedia], started in 1999, but the pages are a quagmire of facts, opinions, quotations, and references. It is not the place for a quick opinion; you would have to live in the swamp for years to find your way.


Leroy addresses his email to the 35 member "velikov" group at Yahoogroups.com, an unarchived listserv. In addition he adds a CC list of some 30 addresses and an unknown number on a BCC list. I recognize most of the names on the CC list -- they are the elite luminaries of the Velikovskian, Neo-Velikovskian, Saturnian, and Electric Universes. It is really astounding that Leroy is willing to send long emails, averaging 10K to 20K, at a rate of about 10 per month, to under a hundred people. It is a project of limited efficacy.

The emails (and much of his past writing) suffer from the lack of a readable and comprehensible essayist's style. Laconic he ain't. The essays and emails are infected with a need to footnote and reference everything and to supply all the circumstantial details. We could apply the label of "amateur sophistry" which Roger Ashton in 2007 leveled against the Neo-Velikovskian writings. Like every other Velokovskian and Saturnian writer, Leroy too has the need to annotate, detail, source, and footnote absolutely everything.

He notes, for example that he discovered Velikovsky's writings..

"..in August 1969 .. while browsing in the B. Dalton's Bookstore in Crestwood, Missouri."

This often results in paragraphs and sentences which look more like diagrams of the innards of some complex farm machinery, rather than the content of a cohesive thought. The email at times are almost completely unreadable (especially with a text email reader) -- one cannot tell what is being quoted, by who, or where the replies start.

The emails tend to be laced with a harsh and shrill stridency (an attitude admitted by him) aimed at the current respondent being addressed in public -- what would otherwise be known as 'ad hominem' attacks. The ultimate ineffectiveness of this must be obvious to some, for although there were active (and explosive) discussions ongoing on some Usenet talk groups in the past, most of the people involved with these have gone silent.

Additionally, the "issues" Leroy brings forward in his campaign of prostelyzation are neither glamorous nor effective. They are dull and diminutive. The 'proofs' which are offered are specious, illogical, and frequently fall apart when nudged. They are imbedded in a great deal of emotion and very little sensibility -- this last revealed by the use of singular sources. The text of an isolated individual is thus used to disprove the text of some other individual. This reduces to a spear throwing contest between Greeks and Trojans. The Trojans will always lose.

There are also occasional emails composed entirely of sermons from the books of psychologists, scientists, and other assorted opinionated preachers of orthodoxy.

Leroy is well represented with old texts and diatribes at http://www.pibburns.com/ and http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ -- but this is all old stuff, dating from the 80s, representing dead issues, misdirected issues, and issues which have long ago been resolved.

URL of this page: http://othergroup.net/leroy.php
This page last updated: Friday, February 15th, 2013
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Feel free to email me with any comments or corrections.
jno (at) othergroup (dot) net
I'll be glad to add relevant comments or essays

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