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Velikovsky and his Critics


Shane Mage, Ph.D.

Dedicated to my dear aunt, Dr. Lily Diana Mage
Copyright 1978 - Shane Mage

Published By:
Cornelius Press:
11560, 128th Avenue, Grand Haver, Michigan 49417

Printed by,
Pippel Patterson Co.
Grand Haver. Michigan 49417


Science is the systematic endeavor to formulate and verify true propositions about the world ("world" defined, with Wittgenstein, as "everything that is the case").

Science is method, not doctrine much less belief. The method in question is the process of testing propositions of whose truth we are uncertain (hypotheses) for a double consistency: logical compatibility both with all propositions we have proven to be true and with all facts established by the human social activities of critically observing and recording. Since theorizing and observing are ongoing social processes, continually redefining the range of plausible theories and relevant data, all scientific theories, by their essential nature, are in principle provisional, incomplete, and quite possibly false if carried beyond a limited field of operationally proven applicability.

It follows from this that science is inherently controversial. Scientific method, thus, is properly so called insofar as it serves to resolve controversies among proponents of incompatible propositions about the world on the basis of logic applied to verifiable human experience and observation.

There exists, of course, a long list of "sciences," each called after a particular aspect of the world and defined by the sort of data considered relevant to operational knowledge of that aspect. The world, emphatically, is not the additive sum of various independent components, not a heap. It is a whole, a manifold, displaying various organically interrelated aspects. Science, likewise, is not the sum of medicine, mathematics, economics, botany, philology, etc., etc. It is, I repeat, nothing more nor less than the method whereby we can acquire demonstrable knowledge of the world. A "scientist," likewise, is anyone qualified to utilize scientific method in the investigation of whatever aspect of the world -- nothing more, nothing less.

This little book is a study of a scientific controversy. The particular science central to this controversy is history, for it is a debate about the past of our planet and that solar system of which it is a part, about events observed and recorded by human societies. But, even more than the most complex historical topics, the issues raised by Velikovsky have crucial significance for the widest range of particular sciences, and it is appropriate that they have become the matter of broad interdisciplinary discussion. The participants in the phase of this debate here considered are qualified scientific workers in the fields of history, medicine, astronomy, sociology, philosophy, statistics, chemistry, engineering, and physics, and the author of this book is an economist.

"There have been, and will be hereafter, many and various destructions of mankind, of which the greatest are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means. Thus the story current also in your part of the world that Phaethon, son of Hellos, once harnessed his father's chariot but could not guide it on his father's course and so burnt up everything on the face of the earth and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt - that story as it is told seems like a fable; but the truth behind j it is a shifting of the bodies that move in the heavens round the earth and a destruction, occurring at long intervals, of things on earth by fierce fire".
Plato, Timaeus, 22 C-D

"These words of Plato received the least attention, though they deserved the greatest." Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision.. p. 148.

The story of Phaethon is but one of a vast number of myths related in the sacred books of all civilized, and the sacred traditions of all non-literate, peoples, purporting to tell of awesome catastrophes visited by the Heavenly Gods upon sinful mortals and their hapless world. Not once, but repeatedly, humankind was pictured as devastated, virtually wiped out, by fire and flood, wind and cold, darkness and earthquake on a scale immeasurably beyond the worst natural disasters recorded in two-and-a-half millennia of history. Our Biblical tradition presents a succession of names indelibly marked with the imprint of supernatural disaster: Eve, Noah, Nimrod, Lot, Job, Moses, Joshua. Ahaz, Sennacherib - every story recounts a miracle as bizarre as the misadventure of Phaethon.

For the formerly dominant ideology of the West, Christian Supernaturalism, these ancient stories are still revealed truth not to be questioned on pain of heresy, a stern warning against disobedience to the Celestial God or His Earthly Vicars. The presently dominant ideology, Humanistic Evolutionism, knows no abrupt changes in the natural order, no interplanetary cataclysms, only slow evolution over huge aeons of geological time, brought about by processes still proceeding uniformly as they did millions of years ago. Nature makes no leaps. The Bible stories are obviously but primitive myths, no more significant than the old-wives-tales of any other primitive culture. No scientist should give them a thought except perhaps to reduce them to familiar events like eclipses, overflowing rivers, and the equinoctial precession that is, to historical triviality.

The problem of destruction-myths, however, is not evaded so easily. They are so widespread, and always have such profound cultural significance, that any serious study can legitimately begin with the hypothesis that some world-wide series of overwhelming events forms the skeleton of a series of retellings, fleshed out with the unique experience and poetry of each people.

Such, at any rate, was the starting point of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky when in 1939 he undertook a psychoanalytic critique of Freud's Moses and Monotheism thesis, according to which the Exodus and the foundation of Judaism were directed by exiled followers of the iconoclast Pharaoh Akhnaton. He very quickly found himself forced to add a second hypothesis: that the historical reality underlying our world-wide heritage of destruction-myths was correctly identi fled by Plato as a succession of shifts in the orbits of the heavenly bodies. whose consequence was repeated devastation of things on earth.

These hypotheses were tested by Velikovsky, not merely against the myths themselves but, even more. against a great array of historical, archaeological, literary, astronomical, geological and palaeontological facts and records. Everywhere he found not refutation but strong confirmation of Plato. From his analysis there irresistably emerged an entirely new account of human history

This reconstruction, presented in its essentials in the books Worlds in Collision (1950), Ages in Chaos (1952), and Earth in Upheaval (1955), has four main tenets:

  1. Geological and biological evolution took place, not with slow uniformity but discontinuously forced by a number of brief catastrophes each causing extermination of numerous well adapted life forrns, the origination of new species through massive violently induced mutations and drastic tectonic and hydrographic changes on the surface of the earth.

  2. Our solar system assumed its present basic form thousands, not billions, of years ago, non gravitational (electrical and magnetic) forces are central to its workings, and its history involves not quasi-eternal stability but repeated disruptions and shiftings of planetary orbits, the most recent series of which ended less than 27 centuries ago and wreaked havoc on all human societies.

  3. The experience of those catastrophes was so traumatic that the subsequent development of all human ideologies, both religious and secular, has included as an essential component a collective psychological mechanism of repression, sublimation, and avoidance against memory of terrifying events nevertheless described quite explicitly by the survivors and their immediate descendants, thus leaving the human race with a false consciousness of its own past and in a perilous state of cultural amnesia.

  4. The Israelite exodus from Egypt took place at the end of the Middle Kingdom, not in the much later epoch of Rameses II and Mere-en-Ptah: hence the standard chronology of Egyptian history, on which depends the chronology of all the other Aegean and West-Asian societies, assigns dates to the New Kingdom (18th, 19th, 20th) Dynasties 550 to 800 years too early as well as scrambling and duplicating their true sequence, so that our current History of the ancient (pre-classical) world is totally chaotic and largely fictitious.