Sagan, Velikovsky and *mail problems*

Mark Grant (
Thu, 10 Jul 1997 19:46:40 +0000

Well, I did write a long reply at work, but gave up after it bounced eight
times. Can someone PLEASE fix the MX relay from to
because currently any time there's no direct link to mail
bounces. Eliminating the MX altogether would be an improvement.

On Wed, 9 Jul 1997, John K Clark wrote:

> So it's come to this, the once mighty Extropian list is reduced to debating
> the merits of Velikovsky, that's Velikovsky of the Jupiter spiting out a
> comet that causes miracles in the bible and then goes into a remarkably
> circular orbit and becomes the planet Venus fame. It's a sad day.

Hmm, I don't remember saying anything about the main features of
Velikovsky's theory, other than that I don't believe it. But since you've
brought this up, here's what he I understand he said, from the little of
read and lots I've heard second-hand:

1. Jupiter threw out Venus

Possible? Well, there could be some kind of unknown phenomenon which makes
gas-giants occasionally do so; there's enough energy in the system. So
it's unlikely, but possible.

2. Venus then passed Earth several times

Possible? I don't see why not if it could get into an appropriate orbit.
So again, it's unlikely but possible.

3. Venus spewed out 'manna' which the Hebrews ate

Possible? Maybe... a body of that size could potentially drop a lot of
matter on Earth.

4. Venus caused other Biblical 'miracles'

Possible? Don't know; I don't know which miracles he's talking about.

5. Venus then settled into its current orbit.

Possible? I don't see how without an interaction with a third body which
was ejected from the system during that interaction. Again, possible but
very unlikely.

So why the hostility? I see no reason to believe Velikovsky's theory, but
while it's highly improbable, it's certainly possible. Unlike, say, the
perpetual motion folks, Velikovsky has claimed nothing that breaks any
known law of science. So why is it that mention of him causes such a
knee-jerk reaction from so many people?

> I read the quotation of Robert Anton Wilson that Mark posted, and perhaps
> I just have no sense of humor but I didn't think it was very funny.

True; in retrospect it's lowered my opinion of Wilson a fair amount.

[nuclear winter]

As you say, there's nothing wrong with Sagan being wrong about nuclear
winter. Equally, there's nothing wrong with desiring a nuclear freeze, but
if someone wants one and produces and publicises a flawed study which
supports that position you have to wonder whether their political
ambitions have colored their models. See, for example, the Club of Rome.

The problem is that he went out to the media and even published a book on
the subject before his work had been evaluated by his peers. As a
consequence even though he's wrong most people still believe what he said.
Now with many people I could give them the benefit of the doubt, but Sagan
was clearly smart enough and definitely media-savvy enough to understand
that no later retraction could come close to matching the original
sensational media coverage of his claims. Science is about truth, not
popularity of ideas, and at least in this case Sagan put his desire to
'spread the word' above truth.

BTW, is the Paul Ehrlich who co-authored 'The cold and the dark' the same
one who was predicting mass starvation in the seventies? If so, Sagan
could clearly have picked better people to work with on his models.


|Mark Grant M.A., U.L.C. EMAIL: |