We all know how the Sun, our Earth and the rest of the Solar System condensed out of a vast protoplanetary disc some 4.5 billion years ago. There were some early mishaps such as the collisions which birthed the Moon, toppled Uranus and gave Mars its present north-south divide. Also it seems that some musical chairs on a planetary scale reorganised the outer Solar System. However for about the past three billion years the Solar system has been pretty stable; but what it this picture is totally, absolutely wrong? Let us examine the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979).
According to Velikovsky, about 4000 years ago a giant volcano on Jupiter erupted and spewed a vast glob of debris into space, leaving the Great Red Spot behind as a permanent scar. The red hot lump ejected from Jupiter (referred to as a comet by Velikovsky) wandered into the inner Solar System, repeatedly crossing the Earth’s orbit and in fact often passing close to our helpless planet in the following millennia.
About 1500 BC the Earth was showered with materials from the “comet” including hydrocarbons (all Earth’s oil reserves date from these events), iron-rich red dust which poisoned and stained the rivers red, and even primitive organisms such as bacteria and insects (implying that biologists today are failing to recognise some species as extraterrestrial). Earth baked in the heat of the blazing comet. Meanwhile gigantic electric discharges torn across our planet and flaming meteors rained down laying waste to whole civilisations. The comet’s gravitational pull sparked horrendous seismic events on our planet which was devastated by tsunamis, volcanoes and earthquakes. Many of Earth’s mountains were formed in these cataclysms.
These events were not universally bad news though. In Egypt, the Israelites escaped from slavery as their oppressors were distracted by the chaos, the fleeing Hebrews followed the comet which appeared as a pillar of fire in the sky. It led them across the Red Sea via a landbridge raised by earthquakes. This was a temporary structure which collapsed when the pursuing Egyptians tried to follow. Later the Israelites were sustained in the wilderness by edible hydrocarbons (or carbohydrates – Adamski uses the terms interchangeably) which rained from the comet, the Old Testament’s manna from Heaven.
Over the centuries, the comet returned. On one instance its influence temporarily halted the Earth’s rotation, causing the Sun and Moon to stand still for Joshua. Eventually the comet settled into a steady orbit between Mercury and Earth, it is still there today and we call it Venus.
This is the briefest summary of Velikovsky’s theses, which is enormously complicated (Mars and Saturn also get involved) and I have neither the space nor the special effects budget to do it justice. Perhaps one day Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich will make a trashy movie of it. Velikovsky, a respected doctor and psychiatrist, published this ideas in several books beginning with Worlds in Collision (1950). He was not especially interested in astronomy but rather hoped to provide a framework to fit the events depicted in the Book of Exodus into known history. If doing so meant rewriting celestial mechanics wholesale and decrying the existence of gravity, so be it. To be fair he also proposed major changes to the chronology of ancient civilisations too.
Displaying apparently deep knowledge of ancient history and astronomy, his books appeared scholarly and were a popular success, and some compared the author’s genius to that of Einstein. He received enormous publicity by way of a misconceived campaign against him by scientists horrified that such factually incorrect works were being published as non-fiction by mainstream publishers. Their opposition was portrayed by Velikovsky’s admirers as a latter-day Inquisition attacking a new Galileo.
Velikovsky’s ideas (which make nonsense of physics, astronomy, biology, geology, archaeology and every other ‘ology’) were still popular up to the ’70s but faded away after the author’s death. He does still have some supporters, in the form of the “Electric Comet” enthusiasts although many of them prefer to publicly distance themselves from Velikovsky.
Nowadays Velikovsky’s bizarre view of the cosmos is all he is remembered for.
Velikovsky in Collision by Stephen Jay Gould
(Article by Colin Johnston, Science Education Director)