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by Maurice A. Williams
6/12/2007 / Education
In 1951, I read a book that has intrigued me ever since: Immanuel Velikovsky's "Worlds in collision." I already had an adequate education, was aware of what our predecessors struggled to learn, and read avidly about science and the origin of the universe. For those readers who never heard of Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collision," Velikovsky analyzed the legends and folklore of ancient peoples all over the world. He surmised that when ancient people described events occurring in the skies, they described what they really saw, but added their own interpretation to make these things understandable to them. They described battles in the sky between planets they thought were gods, and massive disturbances on earth caused by the planets, which disturbances ancient peoples attributed to gods chastising the earth.
Modern science in 1950 compared the solar system to a flawless watch that, once wound, just ticked away stably century after century. Velikovsky proposed a much less stable solar system. He argued that cataclysms occurred several times in recorded history. Major disruptions affected the planets, causing major disturbances on earth. Velikovsky added supporting geological evidence in a second book "Earth in Upheaval." He found reason to surmise that the deluge occurred when a massive eruption of Saturn expelled vast amounts of water that inundated the Earth, our Moon, and Mars. He planned a book detailing his thoughts (Worlds in Collision, preface, p. 12), but never had time to write it. In "Worlds in Collision," he proposed that Venus or erupted from Jupiter and spent some time in an erratic orbit around the sun, much like a comet. When close to the sun, Venus had a comet-like tail, but huge because Venus is huge. The tail was a mixture of flaming stones, cinders, dust, iron oxide, and the gaseous atmosphere of Venus, which atmosphere was composed of hydrocarbons. Velikovsky also claimed that Egyptian history was mismatched with Middle East history by several hundred years.
What fascinating concepts! What challenging arguments Velikovsky made. He based his argument on ancient human observation. They helped me understand, among other things, why three cultures (European, Chinese-Japanese, and Aztec) described dragons when science claims dinosaurs have been extinct for tens of thousands of years. I believed then, and still do, that Velikovsky's thoughts were worthy of serious consideration and further investigation. How surprised I was when many influential scientists of his day vehemently opposed his book, forced the publisher to stop publication, confronted Velikovsky on every side with obviously biased rebuttals, forcing Velikovsky to spend the rest of his life defending what he had already written, causing him not to have time to publish his findings on the deluge.
What a pity! If Velikovsky was right, how much deeper our understanding of the past would be today. He started his book acknowledging that we are "Homo sapiens" then he listed many things we can't explain. He opined that since there are so many things we don't know, he renamed us "Homo ignoramus". Today, I would give us an even less-flattering name. We believe only what can be clearly demonstrated: how can we refute what is clearly demonstrable? But we extrapolate a lot and enter into areas that cannot be demonstrated. Our goal should be pursuit of truth, but more often it is pursuit of what we want to believe, true or not.
D. S. Allan and J. B. Delair, in their 1997 book "Cataclysm! Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C." pick up the same theme, but go into much more detail, benefited by more access to source documents than Velikovsky had and having more discoveries and better instruments at their disposal. They ascribe different causes and different dates, but also claim that Venus and other planets have shifted orbits during historical times. They also propose a cosmic cause for the Deluge. Both authors are specialists in their fields. Dr. Allan is a science historian specializing in paleogeography and a science teacher for many years. Dr. Delair is an Oxford-based geologist and anthropologist and Museum Curator of Geology at the University of Southampton, England.
As for Velikovsky's claim that Egyptian history is misdated by hundreds of years compared to Middle East history, David M. Rohl published "Pharaohs and Kings" in 1995. Following a life-long interest in Egyptology learned from his parents, he studied Egyptology and Ancient History at University College in London, earning a doctorate in Egyptology. He is currently Chairman of the Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences. He discovered compelling evidence that Egyptian history is indeed misdated. He doesn't agree with the magnitude of error that Velikovsky proposed, but Rohl found the correct dates for Joseph's entry into Egypt, found Joseph's tomb in Egypt, and proposed a more accurate date for the Exodus. Because of the vanity of Velikovsky's contemporaries, serious work on his hypotheses was delayed fifty years. Glad I lived long enough to see other scientists re-investigate his claims.
Velikovsky, Immanuel, "Worlds in Collision:" (New York: Pocket Books, 1977
Velikovsky, Immanuel, "Earth in Upheaval:" (New York: Pocket Books, 1977 printing).
Allan, D.S. and Delair, J.B. "Cataclysm! Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C.:" (Bear and Company, Rochester, New York, 1997).
Rohl, David, M., "Pharaohs and Kings. A Biblical Quest:" (Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1995).
Maurice A. Williams
Author of "Apocalypse: Four Horsemen Three Woes." http://www.geocities.ws/mauricewms2003.
Williams is a semi-retired Director of R&D and still works as a consultant. He is married, lives at home, and has four children and six grandchildren.
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