NINETEEN CHAUNCY STREET
May 2, 1977
For over 40 years I have relied upon the New York Times Book Review for fair, accurate, well written and informative reviews of current books. I am dismayed now to find such reliance is no longer justified.
The article entitled Velikovsky Lives Again which appeared in the April 17 issue, meets none of those criteria. It is a calculated insult to an 81 year old scholar; an arrogant, scoffing criticism which contains inaccuracies in every paragraph.
Presumably, you selected Dietrick E. Thomsen, physical sciences editor of Science News to write the article (I avoid the word review intentionally as the article does not review either of the books listed.). If the purpose of selecting Mr. Thomsen was to make sure that Dr. Velikovsky would be subjected to a grossly unfair criticism of the lowest order, the choice was perfect.
The suggestion in the headline that Dr. Velikovsky has just (some back to life indicates the ignorance of the person who wrote it as to what has been going on in recent years with respect to Dr. Velikovsky and his works. Obviously he is unaware of the fact that Dr. Velikovskys four books published prior to this year have gone through innumerable printings in both hard cover and paper back (twenty-five for Worlds in Collision); that his sixth book is undergoing the process of final editing before publication; that he has written three more books which are almost ready for publication; that during the last ten years he has been in great demand as a lecturer at many colleges, universities and scientific meetings (including NASA in California in August 1972, and NASA in Hampton, Virginia in December 1973); that nearly twenty scholarly articles written by him have appeared in Pensée and Kronos since May, 1972; that many colleges and universities around the country offer courses based on his work, in most of which his books are required reading (see list of twenty-seven such courses in Pensée, Winter, 1973, pp. 37 and 38); that his work has been the principal subject discussed at numerous symposia attended by large, enthusiastic audiences of scientists, scholars and students, including, but not limited to, those sponsored by the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia 1962), Lewis and Clarke College (Portland, Oregon, August, 1972), The American Association for the Advancement of Science (San Francisco, California, February, 1974); McMaster University (Toronto, Canada, 1974) and the University of Lethbridge (Canada, 1974). In addition to all of this, Dr. Velikovsky has carried on his exhaustive research work for his books and articles and an extensive correspondence with scientists, scholars and admirers all over the world. Books about his theories, and their reception by the scientific establishment, include The Velikovsky Affair, edited by Alfred DeGrazia (University Books, 1966); Velikovsky Reconsidered, by the Editors of Pensée (Doubleday, January 1976) and The Age of Velikovsky, by C. J. Ransom (Kronos Press, 1976). Obviously, Dr. Velikovsky (and his theories) have not only been alive, but extraordinarily lively throughout the last sixteen years. Since his fourth book, Oedipus and Akhnaton was published in 19, his theories have been under constant and growing consideration and discussion, and his ideas and predictions, which were contrary to the beliefs of the establishment scienctists and scholar have again and again been confirmed.
A less applicable title for the article could hardly have been chosen. To reflect the substance and tone of the article it should have been Velikovsky Is Still Alive, So Lets Do Him In This Time.
The combination of the two unrelated books. Subdue the Earth and Peoples of the Sea for joint review is inexplicable. Apparently Thomsen, or one of your editors, read the publishers blurb on the back cover of the first book, stating that it is a provocative extension of Dr. Immanuel Velikovskys cataclysmic-formation-of-the-world theory, and thought that that misstatement of Velikovskys theory justified coupling the book with Peoples of the Sea, apparently not realizing that the latter deals with ancient history, from the time of Akhnaton to that of the Ptolemies. It is not at all clear that Thomsen read anything more of Subdue the Earth than that blurb and the table of contents. Nothing in his article indicates that he did.
The article is in fact just a continuous attack on Dr. Velikovsky as a scholar and writer, and gives the reader practically no information concerning the purpose and content of Peoples of the Sea.
Thomsen starts off by indicating that the name of Immanuel Velikovsky makes scientists go purple in the face. Apparently Thomsen does and did react in that fashion. He goes on to say The books seem intelligent and scholarly... (meaning that they are neither) and that Book length treatises have been written in refutation. Presumably hes talking about Dr. Velikovskys books, although they are generally recognized as intelligent and scholarly by many eminent scholars and scientists, whether they agree with him or not. If Thomsen knows of any book length treatise which refutes any book by Velikovsky, he ought to let us in on the secret, because thats his secret.
Thomsen also says that science is not done (sic) by adopting a parti pris and then marshalling facts, speculations and downright imagination in support of it. Of course, thats not the way that Dr. Velikovsky writes his books, but it certainly is the method followed by Thomsen in writing the article under discussion.
The second paragraph of Thomsens article is such a mixed up hodge-podge that to try to sort it out and make sense out of it would not be worth the time and space it would take. It is apparent., however, that Thomsen does not realize that growing numbers of his uniformitarian peers are quietly abandoning the Darwinian theory, which he is so staunchly, but confusedly defending.
Thomsen takes issue with Dr. Velikovskys identification of Hatshepsut with the Queen of Sheba, apparently not realizing that this appears in Ages in Chaos (1952) and not in Peoples of the Sea.. In Chapter III of the earlier work. Dr. Velikovsky presents a very impressive, convincing, and heavily annotated case for this identification. The evidence presented is much too strong to be disregarded and dismissed by Thomsen so flippantly.
Thomsen accuses Dr. Velikovsky of cabalistic reasoning, of relying on correspondences of sound, such as Pereset and Persian. This statement is a pure fabricationsome of that downright imagination of which Thomsen disapproves. Dr. Velikovsky points out (p. 35) that in the hieroglyphic texts of the Persian era... Persia is always called P-r-s and that in the Canopus Decree, cut in stone, in 238 B.C., the Persians are referred to as P-r-s-tt. (There were no vowels in the alphabet.) The Canopus Decree is written both in Egyptian and in Greek. In Egyptian it describes the carrying off of the sacred images of Egypt by the Pereset and in Greek it tells of them being carried off by the Persians. But Dr. Velikovsky did not limit his identification of the Pereset as Persians to this evidence, although it would have been enough for a less careful and exacting scholar. In addition, he compares the clothing, armaments and appearances of the Persian soldiers and officers, as they are depicted in the bas reliefs in Persepolis and Nakhsh-i-Rustam, with those of the Pereset as depicted in the murals of the temple at Habinet Habu. The striking similarities are unmistakable. Finally, Dr. Velikovsky compares, step by step, the events described in annals left by Ramses III of his war with the Pereset and the Peoples of the Sea, with the descriptions by Diodorus of Sicily of the details of the war of Nectanebo I against the Persians and the Greek mercenaries. This comparison is made in such meticulous detail that the only logical conclusions are that both were describing the same war; that the Pereset and the Persians were the same people and that Ramses III was the Pharaoh whom the Greeks called Nectanebo I. Incidentally, Dr. Velikovsky, quoting E. Wallis Budge, The Book of Kings (London 1908) Vol. II p. I, points out that one of the Horus names of Ramses III was Nectanebo (Nekht-a-neb).
So much for Tomsens accusations of cabbalistic reasoning and making archeology out of anomalies.
The Velikovsky presentation is one of correlations painstakingly assembled from a multitude of sciences as Thomsen says it should be. If Thomsen had read Peoples of the Sea carefully, or if he had remembered what he had read, he could not have made the accusations contained in the article under discussion.
I believe that a few other opinions of the nature and quality of Dr. Velikovskys scholarship are in order.
In 1955, the late Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer, when he was Chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages and History at Harvard University, wrote that Dr. Velikovsky discloses immense erudition and extraordinary ingenuity. He writes well and documents all his statements with the original sources... .
In Harpers, October 1963. Professor Lloyd Motz, Columbia University Astronomer, who did not agree with some of Dr. Velikovskys astronomical theories, said, nevertheless, that Velikovskys ideas, as presented in his books, Should be considered by responsible scholars and scientists as the creation of a serious and dedicated investigator... His writings should be carefully studied because they are the product of an extraordinary and brilliant mind, and are based upon some of the most concentrated and penetrating scholarship of our period...
In his article entitled Proofs of the stability of the solar system, published in Kronos II.2, November 1976, Robert W. Bass, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University, a specialist in celestial mechanics, pointed out (p. 44) that Three of the greatest contemporary mathematical celestial mechanicians have stated explicitly and recently that nothing known to them forbids Velikovskys hypothesis. He concluded his article with the following;
None of these scientists went purple in the face when Velikovsky was mentioned. Nor did the late Walter S. Adams, former director of Mount Wilson Observatory, nor the late Albert Einstein, both of whom became friends and admirers of Dr. Velikovsky and unselfishly offered him their advice and assistance. Nor did the sixty scholarly participants in the McMaster University Symposium who signed a statement, prepared by Professor Lynn Trainor, of the Department of Physics of Toronto University, in early 1974, which ended with the following;
Finally, I believe I should point out to you that some editors of the New York Times have an entirely different opinion of Dr. Velikovsky and his theories than you and Thomsen have evidenced. In 1969, at the request of the Editor (Science Editor?) of the New York Times, Immanuel Velikovsky wrote an article for its Man Walks on the Moon Issue. It was entitled Are the Moons Scars Only Three Thousand Years Old? It was published in the City Edition of July 21,1969. In that article Dr. Velikovsky correctly predicted, contrary to then currently accepted scientific opinions, that the moon had a weak magnetic field but that its rocks and lava would be found to be rich in remanent magnetism; that digging below the surface should reveal a steep thermal gradient; that carbides should be found in the composition of the rocks; and that localized radioactive areas should be found. All of these predictions were confirmed by the Apollo 11 and 15 flights, much to the surprise of the scientific world.
Some editors recognize and respect genius, as do some scientists.
I seriously suggest to you and Mr. Thomsen that you owe Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky an apology and a retraction.
E. R. Langenbach