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).

A comparison of the ionosphere of Venus under different solar wind conditions. Credit: ESA/Wei et al. (2012)

A comparison of the ionosphere of Venus under different solar wind conditions. Credit: ESA/Wei et al. (2012)

 

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.

FURTHER READING

Velikovsky in Collision by Stephen Jay Gould

The Velikovsky Affair by Henry H. Bauer

(Article by Colin Johnston, Science Education Director)

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9 Comments

Geoff · July 28, 2018 at 10:26

Hi Heather.
As far as I can ascertain, mainstream science, maybe I should rather say “mainstream astrophysics,” has determined that the solar system is in a stable format and has been so for millions of years. What I would like to know is whether that is true or not. Is there any reason an asteroid or comet cannot enter the solar system and upset this stability. I’ve been reading Immanuel Velikovski’s “Worlds in collision” for a while now, quite a lot of paradigm shifting stuff in it, but can see no reason he is incorrect.
If he is correct then we better sit up and start taking note. There is a lot in the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible which describes events to come which seem to me to be exactly like those of the Exodus. Really scary.

Lucas Driesprong · June 20, 2016 at 08:11

This kind of article is what I have come to expect of the scientific world, sadly. It does not go into any real arguments, and it does not try to discuss the books themselves. Thank you for another worthless article.

    admin · June 20, 2016 at 09:09

    Dear Lucas, I am sorry you feel this way but this article was intended just to introduce readers to the curious claims of Dr Velikovsky rather than to scrutinise them in depth. I will add some links to other sources so readers can find out more.

      Lucas Driesprong · June 21, 2016 at 15:33

      But you do scrutinise his work, just not in depth, and without explanation.

      For example, you state that Velikovsky is “decrying the existence of gravity”. How so?

      Also, you say his work “appeared scholarly”, insinuating that is not. Why?

      Then you go on to say Velikovsky “make nonsense of physics, astronomy, biology, geology, archaeology and every other ‘ology”. Would you call this ‘introducing readers to the curious claims of Dr. Velikovsky? It seems clear to me you detest his work. How can you claim he makes nonsense of just about every field of science, without explaining why? Yes, Velikovsky’s theory conflicts with Darwin’s, for example, but you can’t just throw in every ‘ology’. Why would you do that, and have you any basis for this claim?

      And after all this, you conclude with the words “Nowadays Velikovsky’s bizarre view of the cosmos is all he is remembered for.”.

      A very slight remark, in my opinion. I can only assume you have not actually studied his work, like so many other of his critics.

        admin · June 28, 2016 at 08:52

        Dear Lucas, thank you for your comments and I apologise for being slow to respond.

        For example, you state that Velikovsky is “decrying the existence of gravity”. How so?

        I have read Velikovsky’s publication Cosmos Without Gravitation (1946). The title along is rather a give away to Velikovsky’s beliefs. Reading it makes it clear he believes Newtonian gravity does not exist. It also demonstrates his lack of understanding of fairly basic physical principles. For example, to support his view that gravity does not exist, he says

        “Water, though eight hundred times heavier than air, is held in droplets, by the millions of tons, miles above the ground. Clouds and mist are composed of droplets which defy gravitation.”

        Statement above is a direct unedited quote from Cosmos Without Gravitation.

        Also, you say his work “appeared scholarly”, insinuating that is not. Why?

        Just sticking to Cosmos Without Gravitation, it is full of quotes from scientific journals carefully picked to support (or appear to support) Velikovsky. The context in which these quotes are made are absent and also some of them were outdated and known to be incorrect when he used them. I also understand that his knowledge of archeology and ancient cultures was less than he claimed (but I am not a specialist in these fields).

        It seems clear to me you detest his work

        That’s not correct, when I wrote the article my intention was to amuse our readers by describing a once popular but now forgotten author’s eccentric beliefs.

        How can you claim he makes nonsense of just about every field of science, without explaining why?

        Since this is an astronomy site, I assume that most people coming understand ideas like the geological time scale and orbits of planetary bodies. These are well-established principles that do not have to be constantly explained, so if someone writes a book decrying them but offering no supporting evidence whatsoever it seems pretty clear that these ideas are nonsense.

      mhikl · February 26, 2018 at 20:08

      +admin
      I appreciate your synopsis. I study the electric universe, ‘The Thunderbolts Project’ which follows Velikovsky’s work and updates it. It is a long study, and I was thinking of reading the original studies by Velikovsky; but I think I won’t for now as the EU and relative studies take up my time.
      • I read that there were two chaps who preceded him in their publications on the same theme, sometime around 1880~1890. This is a theme that just wont go away, and thew TBP answers a lot of questions.
      • As a youth I found mythology so confusing; there were overlaps, but so much incongruity that made it impossible to draw up a family history of the gods. Now I understand why.
      Namaste and care,
      Michael

Greg Younger · June 19, 2016 at 03:21

Yup. Hebrew scriptures as well as many writings from kings and emperors and historical scribes from ancient civilizations must be pure fiction. Yup they all wrote about Venus and Mars threatening the earth with major uphevals. Amazing separate cultures with no knowledge of the others existence. Yup, these civilizations oriented their entire cultures and rituals, religions, and gods around astronomy and calendars awaiting for the next heavenly catastrophy – because they didn’t have anything else to do.

The uniformitarianists, including the Saganists, have been debunked. e.g. the big bang theory. I’m not saying Velikovsky was correct, but the scientific aristocracy has proven him wrong either.

    admin · June 20, 2016 at 08:56

    Dear Greg, thank you for your comments.

    Hebrew scriptures as well as many writings from kings and emperors and historical scribes from ancient civilizations must be pure fiction.

    Not entirely fiction in all cases. However few ancient writings are meant as modern-style reportage, being written from positions of ignorance of modern science and being heavily laced with cultural and religious propaganda. Surely the fact that ancient writing can describe supernatural beings and events that we know did not actually happen indicates this.

    they all wrote about Venus and Mars threatening the earth with major uphevals.

    But is this actually correct? Can you indicate where this is stated?

    The uniformitarianists, including the Saganists, have been debunked. e.g. the big bang theory.

    Can you show where you got this information? If anything we have found more evidence supporting the Big Bang theory in the past decades (for example better measurements of the Hubble Constant and the Planck map of the cosmic background radiation).

Bob Stitzenberger · January 23, 2016 at 02:07

I think the article is a bit harsh on Velikovski, and not completely accurate. For example, Velikovski didn’t say the Jews escaped over a land bridge which collapsed. His version is the one much accepted today, that hey escaped through the Sea of Reeds.

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