THE STRANGE NOTIONS OF DR. IMMANUEL VELIKOVSKY: Remember the Shaver Mystery? Well, the high I.Q. crowd are getting into an argument that gives every indication of being a top level fuss on the order of the Shaver Mystery. You have to have a Ph.D . to even have an opinion in this squabble. If you have a master's degree you might be able to talk on the local level, but you will have to back up your statements with quotations from the top brass. This argument cuts across a dozen fields of science. I t deals with astronomy, physics, anthropology, history, psychology, and all the sciences dealing with man and his origin. It also takes in chemistry, mathematics and religion. You can find plenty of "authority" to quote on both sides of the argu ment. Here's what happened:

HARPER'S MAGAZINE, January 1950, published a story by Eric Larrabee, an editor of HARPER'S, which was a review of a forthcoming book called Worlds In Collision to be published by MacMillan Co. (This book may now be in the book stor es) Now if HARPER'S had hidden this story way in the back of the magazine between several other book reviews, no one would have paid much attention to it. If Larrabee had taken the tongue-in-cheek, Zapp, Zapp!!, oh-what-funny-business-is-this attitude eve ryone would have been satisfied. But HARPER'S went all out on this book. They made it the lead story for January; gave it a nice attention-arresting title, "The Day The Sun Stood Still"; and the article sounds as if Larrabee and HARPER'S swallow ed the whole theory. This story is so astonishing that it got widespread publicity via the radio and newspaper, and TIME magazine reviews the whole argument in its 13 March issue. READER'S DIGEST gives a preview of the book written by Fulton Oursler in it s March 1950 issue and quotes Clifton Fadiman as saying, "It may well turn out to be as epochal as The Origin of Species by Darwin or the Principia of Newton." COLLIER'S 25 Feb 50 issue also carries an article "The Heavens Burst" which is excerpted from Dr. Velikovsky's book by John Lear. Nothing has stirred up such a fuss since Orson Welles discovered Martians invading New Jersey. Even the hydrogen bomb is being crowded as a news story by the fabulou s theory of Dr. Velikovsky.

Who is Dr. Velikovsky, by the way? Larrabee in HARPER'S describes him as a "universal student." He was born in Vitobsk, Russia,in 1895. He went to schook in Edinburgh where he studied natural sciences; Moscow Imperial University for law, eco nomics and history; biology in Berlin; M.D. in Moscow; psychoanalysis in Vienna with Adler, Bleuler -- in other words the man is educated like all get out. TIME, however, is not nearly so happy about the doctor's education. Claims he studied "a lit tle zoology and botany" in Edinburgh, gives him credit for an M.D., says his only employment was editor of a Palestinian magazine, Scripta Universitatis, which was subsidized by his father.

And now for the theory. Dr. Velikovsky claims that Venus was born about 1500 B.C. by eruption from a larger planet, probably Jupiter, and swept close to the earth showering it with rocks. A gigantic spark travelled between earth and Venus during this passage. Great tidal waves inundated vast areas of the earth. It was at this time that the Red Sea parted to permit the Children of Israel to escape Egypt. Fifty-two years later the comet again approached earth and stopped the earth's rotation for a w hole day to permit Joshua to win a battle against the Amorites.

After leaving the earth for the second time, the comet bore down on Mars and sent it gyrating toward earth and on two days, February 26, 747 B.C. and March 23, 687 B.C. caused catastrophes similar to those of the comet. This conjunction between Mars a nd Venus is described by one writer as the inspiration for the poetry of Homer. Mars tamed Venus and she retired to her present orbit around the sun and became the familiar Morning and Evening Star.

All of this to-do created great havoc on earth. The period between the two visits of Venus was one of great trial for man. The records of every civilization existing at that time give accounts of the disaster. The Chinese called it the "Valley of Obscurity" and "Somber Residence"; the Nordics called it the "Twilight of the Gods"; and the Hebrews the "Shadow of Death." After the first passage of the planet, the fire and gasses were so destructive that nothing grew and the humans who survived the catastrophe existed on Manna, mentioned in the Bible, which, according to Velikovsky, was a precipitated carbohydrate from the tail of the comet.

Where did Dr. Velikovsky get wind of this remarkable Theory? In writing a book, Freud and His Heroes the doctor in studying Moses and Ikhnaton, became interested in the number of ancient records that mention the great physi cal catastrophe. The doctor extended his study to include the ancient records of China, India, Europe and North America. He found the literature and historical records of all of these peoples loaded with accounts of the event. This does not mean that t he records gave exact accounts of the comet. None of the sources spoke clearly. The records are clouded with myth. The doctor thinks that the catastrophe was so terrible that the people were gagged by "collective amnesia." The doctor is a Fr eudian and one of the theories of paychoanalysis is that an individual will tend to forget events which cause him pain. He has expanded this idea and claims that these ancient peoples tried to forget their great trouble. The ancient accounts are clouded by myth and symbolism.

How is Dr. Velikovsky faring with his "fans"? HARPER'S quotes Professor Horace M. Kallen, former dean of the New School for Social Research, as saying "extraordinary achievement", and Gordon A. Atwater, Curator of the Hayden Planet arium says in a long quote, "outstanding job." READER'S DIGEST quote of Clifton Fadiman has already been given. R.D. also quotes John J. O'Neill, science editor of the New York Herald Tribune, "magnificent piec e of scholarly research."

Other scientists and scholars take a different attitude. TIME, naming no names, says that "some scientists have a sneaking suspicion that Velikovsky is pulling their legs." They do quote Historian Carl Kraeling,director of the Oriental Inst itute of the University of Chicago: "There is nothing we as historians can do about Dr. Velikovshy's work other than smile and go about our business." The trick seems to be, according to TIME, to get the earth to stand still for a whole day wi thout cracking wide open. If the earth suddenly stopped rotating, everything loose would continue its movement and take off toward the east faster than sound. Dr. Velikovsky admits these difficulties, and says that perhaps the physicists will have to re vise their laws. He insists that the earth stood still for a whole day during the second visit of the comet and that when it started rotating again, it was in the opposite direction. He also claims that during the first conjunction with Mars in 747 B.C. , the rotation of the earth was changed from a 360-day year to a 365-day year. Don't laugh -- he has a wealth of convincing argument for his theory.

HARPER'S, like most magazines, runs a reader's column. Here the fans debate issues with the writers and editors just like they do in STARTLING STORIES. HARPER'S is very proud of their subscription list. It probably boasts the highest average I.Q. of any subscription list. And how did the highbrows go for Dr. Velikovsky? They must have received a lot of letters of which they published eight, excerpts from eight, that is. Two are for and five are agin' and the other is a two-line poem: "The S UN stood still; So they sold it." Those agin' really blew their top. George P. Murdock, an anthropologist says, "HARPER'S has been had." Joseph H. Stephens of Baltimore, Md., says he is "disgusted."; R.H. Stetson of Oberlin, Oh io, calls the article "ridiculous"; and A.H. Lybeck of Elizabeth, N.J., calls it "pseudo-science." Donald H. Menzel of Cambridge,Mass., says "Publication of this article constitutes a serious disservice to the cause of science, h istory, and religion." On the other hand, David Lazer, of Cambridge, Mass., says, "Now HARPER'S has shown us what science might have been, had it followed the lead of men like Dr. Velikovsky."

One thing is certain. Dr. Velikovsky does not dependon "racial memory" or "thought records" for his theory. The man has done a tremendous amount of research. This mountain of work alone has done a great deal to interest many auth orities in his ideas. His theory puts a solid scientific background behind many myths of the Biblical times. It explains how the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea; how Joshua made the Sun stand still. It also tends to provide a source for the anci ent, thunderbolt-throwing and family squabbling gods of the Greeks, Romans, Nordics and Indians.

One thing about this controversy is certain. Men did not always regard the Morning and Evening Star as Venus, the goddess of beauty. According to Dr. Velikovsky, Isiah wrote, "O Lucifer, son of the morning," and some of the other boy s of 4,500 years ago referred to her as "Beelzebub." She was the original BEM!

SHORT ITEMS: The western-story fans have fanzines now. At least I saw one in the mail the other day. It was a mimeo job with no art work. Had a picture of Roy Rogers, out from a movie magazine, pasted on the cover. Contents was mostly on mo vies and it seemed to center around motion pictures rather than Western fiction.

There is an article in March Writer's Digest by Mack Reynolds on how to write science fiction. He claims that Western, love and crime pulps are on the wane, while Stf is booming. He thinks a lot of the pulpsters in other fields will mov e over into science fiction. He says, come on in, its easy to write, the editors are friendly -- they usually write criticisms of rejected stories rather than sending formal rejection slips. Ha, ha, ha and well, well, well -- you don't suppose he could be talking about fanzines, do you?

- END -

((The same ish of WD contains "Capsule Review of a Stf Convention" written by a publisher's representative at Cincy as a report to his boss who wanted to know what kind of audience he'd have for a planned stf pulp. The observer's remarks abo ut fans and their conventions are must reading for any fan who is congratulating himself on his star-begottenness. There's also a brief article by R.A. Heinlein, whose picture is on the cover. -- ahr))

Text versions and page scans Judy Bemis

Data entry by Judy Bemis

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