Re: Robert Anton Wilson

Mark Grant (
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 15:04:08 +0100 (BST)

John K Clark ( wrote:

>Either Velikovsky's work is idiotic or the Scientific method is, there are
>no other possibilities. I have a hunch it's Velikovsky.

Or perhaps Velikovsky was correct in some respects and wrong in others.

>That I do not believe. Anybody who wanted to adopted Velikovsky's ideas as
>his own is an idiot. Sagan was not an idiot.

Hmm, here's a Wilson quote (our Net link is lousy at the moment so I can't
access the pages I wanted to quote from):

"Consider next the high temperature of Venus (480C). As Dr.
Roger Wescott and others have pointed out, Dr. Velikovsky
predicted a temperature in this range for Venus when
astronomical orthodoxy believed that planet much, much colder.
Sagan tries to avoid giving Dr. Velikovsky credit for this
confirmation of his model by claiming many had predicted a high
temperature before the Venus flyby. Actually, he only names one
other who made such a prediction, Dr. Rupert Wildt, and Wildt's
work did not win general acceptance (others try to get around
Dr. Velikovsky's correct estimate in this and other instances by
describing him as a lucky guesser. That seems mere cage
rattling to me. One Could as well call any scientist who made
many correct predictions a lucky guesser ...)...

"But the final joker came on page 153 of Broca's Brain where
Sagan writes (and this really deserves caps):

RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE EFFECT. (All emphasis added and deserved)

"First, Sagan claims that Dr. Velikovsky does not deserve
credit for predicting high temperatures on Venus because
everybody knew it, although historical fact shows that only Dr.
Wildt had made the same prediction before Velikovsky. Then
Sagan either tells a double lie or else suffers an alarming
memory lapse that may require neurological consultation claiming
that neither Dr. Wildt nor Dr. Velikovsky had made this
prediction (which they had, and he had noted earlier) -- and
then he brazenly claims he had originated it himself. Quite a
performance wouldn't you say?"
- Robert Anton Wilson, "The Astronomer Who Abolished Gravity,"
Cosmic Trigger III, Mask, (Tempe, AZ, 1995),pp. 197-198

Now, I don't believe in Velikovsky's theories either, but if this is true
(and I found, but have since lost, a Web page listing numerous other
occasions where Sagan claimed that Velikovsky was wrong in such respects
then later adopted Velikovsky's opinions) then I'm not impressed.

>The nuclear winter theory may or may not be true, but one thing is
>certain, it has absolutely nothing to do with human political theories, it
>has to do with the atmosphere.

Nonsense. Nuclear winter theory has little to do with the atmosphere and
everything to do with choice of parameters in atmospheric models. By
choosing different parameters you could create anything from a 'nuclear
summer' to a 'nuclear absolute zero'. Sagan was a big supporter of
limiting the number of nuclear weapons and, oddly, the parameters his
group chose showed that we'd get a nuclear winter. Later, when people
actually did some experiments to determine the validity of the model the
parameters were found to be dramatically overpessimistic. The same model
predicted millions of dead in Asia after the Iraquis ignited the Kuwaiti
oil-wells; the real effect was minimal. Their model clearly had absolutely
nothing to do with the atmosphere.

Or, in other words, "Garbage in, garbage out".

>The atmosphere doesn't give a hoot in hell
>about Liberals, Conservatives, Communists, Libertarians , Socialists or
>even Extropians. The atmosphere is just interested in Thermodynamics.

But we're not talking about the atmosphere, we're talking about
atmospheric models.

>If Dr. Sagan thought there was one chance in a thousand of being correct
>it was his duty to shout it from the rooftops.

Really? Should he really have gone out to the mass media rather than
suggesting the possibility to the atmospheric physics community for them
to review? Even today most people believe in 'nuclear winters' even though
the evidence seems to show that Sagan was wrong.

>If it turns out he was
>wrong there is no disgrace in that, all the great scientists were wrong
>about something important in their careers, its part of the Scientific

But most of them didn't go out and push their theories on TV, they used
that Scientific Method to discover whether they were correct. Why was
Sagan more concerned with publicity than truth?