In an attempt to improve public awareness of the true
state of affairs, herewith is Henry Bauer's assessment
of James Hogan's intellectually challenged treatment
of Velikovsky, taken from Bauer's review
of _Kicking the Sacred Cow: Questioning the
Unquestionable and Thinking the Impermissible_ (2004)
in J. Scientific Exploration 2005; 19(3): 419-35

C. Leroy Ellenberger, 07/07

              Velikovskian Catastrophism

  Hogan's title for this section is, "Catastrophe of
Ethics: The case for taking Velikovsky seriously".

  Immanuel Velikovsky was a psychiatrist who
interpreted Biblical and other ancient texts as
indicating that Venus had erupted as a comet from
Jupiter and come close to Earth on a number of
occasions, giving rise to catastrophic effects like
the falling of manna from the heavens and the parting
of the Red Sea. On later occasions, Mars -- displaced
by Venus -- approached close to Earth with similarly
startling consequences. Eventually the comet settled
into its present planetary orbit.

  Prominent scientists reacted with fury against these
conjectures. Velikovsky's publishers were boycotted
and people who gave him support lost their jobs. Some
scientists publicly berated his ideas while boasting
that they had not read his book. That was in the early
1950s. In the early 1960s, Velikovsky claimed
vindication because certain discoveries -- radio
emissions from Jupiter, the high temperature of Venus,
and others -- seemed consonant with his propositions.
Velikovsky became a guru for student activists, and
social scientists made a fuss about the unscientific
and unethical manner in which his book had been
received a decade earlier. The early 1970s brought a
fresh outburst of Velikovskian enthusiasm with the
publication of periodicals explicitly devoted to his
work. Some descendants of those organizations and
publications are still extant.

  I agree unreservedly that there was a "catastrophe
of ethics": the scientific community let some of its
leading lights get away with behaving inexcusably. An
academic community that had suffered McCarthyite
persecution practiced similar tactics against
Velikovsky. However, this does _not_ constitute a
case for taking Velikovsky's substantive claims
seriously (Bauer, 1984).

  Reading Hogan's account was very much _deja vu_ for
me. The Velikovsky Affair and the Loch Ness Monster
had been the first examples of scientific heresies
that I studied seriously. Like Hogan, on the
Velikovsky Affair I relied at first on the only
detailed accounts in the literature, which had been
written by supporters of Velikovsky or by social
scientists who were explicitly concerned with how he
had been treated, irrespective of whether his ideas
made any sense. Like Hogan, I found offensive the
purported critiques of Velikovsky's ideas published by
scientists -- offensive in their sloppy incompetence
coupled with dogmatic arrogance.

  But as I dug into every available document, I came
upon an early monograph self-published by Velikovsky,
_Cosmos Without Gravitation_, that revealed his
abysmal ignorance of the chemistry and physics that he
nevertheless did not hesitate to write about. It also
demonstrated that he had arrived at his whole cosmic
scenario in a flash of insight, not following the
decade or more of inductive reasoning he and his
supporters alleged. I refer interested readers to my
analysis of the affair, _Beyond Velikovsky_
(1984/1999). It deals with the chronology of the
controversy, the lack of technical support for
Velikovsky's claims, and non-technical clues
indicating why he need not have been taken seriously.
The book also discusses social and psychological
factors that explain why Velikovsky has been taken
seriously by some people, factors that include
"Blundering Critics" and effective polemic strategies
and tactics by Velikovsky and his supporters. I
concluded by contrasting how science actually is done
with the popular misconceptions about it, and
suggested lessons for similar cases: public
controversies in which technical issues play a central

  I suggest that the chief reason why Hogan has not
(yet?) reached the same conclusion as I about
Velikovsky is that so far he seems to have relied --
as I did initially -- on the writings of
Velikovskians. Perhaps this is why so many pages are
devoted to inadequacies of Carl Sagan's critique of
Velikovsky's notions, following the argument in _Carl
Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky_, by Charles Ginenthal,
an unreconstructed Velikovskian. Hogan does not
address the points made in my book as to why science
had no reason to attend to Velikovsky, nor the
writings of C. Leroy Ellenberger (1986, 1995, 1997),
which show, for instance, that data from Greenland
ice-cores exclude from possibility the global
happenings postulated by Velikovsky. Much Velikovskian
argument has been to the effect that the sort of
planetary excursions imagined by Velikovsky are not
impossible; maybe -- but Ellenberger demonstrates that
they simply did not happen.


Bauer, H.H. (1984). Velikovsky and Social Studies of
Science. _4S Review_, 2 (#4, Winter 1984), 2-8.

Bauer, H.H. (1984/1999). _Beyond Velikovsky: The
History of a Public Controversy_. University of
Illinois Press.

Ellenberger, L. (1986). A lesson from Velikovsky.
_Skeptical Inquirer_, X (4, Summer), 380-381; expanded
version available at

Ellenberger, C.L. (1995). An antidote to Velikovskian
delusions. _Skeptic_, 3(4):49-51; available on-line
with added material:

Ellenberger, L. (1997). Top ten reasons why Velikovsky
is wrong about worlds in collision. Adapted and
enhanced from a post to sci.skeptic and
on 14 August; expanded text of the postcard sent to
135 people in January 1997; available at: