Don’t Call Me Stupid!

In my last post I said I would “leave my fiery retort” on Asimov’s forward to “Scientists Confront Velikovsky.” The reason for this is that said retort is an entire post in and of itself. This post. I will try to stick to a straight path, but will most likely wander where the wind blows. Please bear with me, and keep some fire-fighting foam on hand just in case.

Towards the end of “Worlds in Collision” Velikovsky devotes an entire chapter to the discussion of ancient records of astronomy and calenders. He cites example after example after example of civilizations observing a 360 day year, consisting of twelve 30 day months. He says that until now everyone had just assumed that ancient astronomers were terrible at their jobs, their calenders were wrong, and they were constantly making adjustments and getting their heads cut off, etc. But, according to Velikovsky, it isn’t all that hard to figure out that 5 and 1/4 days are missing from  your year. It doesn’t take a skilled royal astronomer; any farmer would notice within about twenty years, when it began snowing in July and the equinoxes were no long observed on the proper date.

Give them some credit! Velikovsky’s theory is that the year was actually 360 days long and that the astronomers were very good at their jobs. In fact, all the ancient peoples observed the sky rigorously to make sure it didn’t go haywire again. On more than one occasion they may have had to recalculate the year and the seasons and the lunar phases.

Carl Sagan attacks this theory with equal vigor, devoting a large section of his paper to refuting it. Ancient astronomers, he says, would have hated working with fractions. So they created a 360 day year to make the math easier and just readjusted it as needed. Or new astronomers readjusted it after the old astronomers were beheaded for being so wrong. Frankly; isn’t it worth your head to just work with fractions? That makes them out to be incredibly lazy and generally apathetic about their job. Maybe that’s how Sagan would have executed the position, but I doubt everyone around the world would make the same mistake! Unless, as Sagan suggests, the ancient people were stupid.

Both Asimov and Goldsmith, in the introduction and forward respectively, seem to think that the best way to get Velikovsky’s supporters to shut up and go home is to insult their intelligence and accuse them of fanaticism.

“He is an interesting writer. It is fun to read his books. Although he doesn’t lure me into accepting his views I can well see where those less knowledgeable {…} would succumb.” – Asimov; “The Role of the Heretic.”

“Though one could be sure from the start that nothing scientists could say would in the least move the Velikovskians, and that no amount of mere logic would shake their faith…” – Asimov; “The Role of the Heretic.”

If Sagan and Asimov are to be taken at their word then the entire world, from ancient times into the present, is peopled with a subj-intelligent race, and that the only beings capable of understanding anything more advanced then work, food, and sleep, are the elite scientists to whom is entrusted the mysteries of the universe. No one knows how these scientists came into being, since apparently two thousand years ago there was no such thing.

The Velikovsky affair aside, this tends to be the universal attitude of scientists towards those not initiated into the order. They pride themselves on their ability to write in a language that many people cannot understand, or have difficulty deciphering. Those of us who are hobbyists, or who support new and unorthodox theories are laughed at and ridiculed and dismissed out of hand. Teaching yourself is out of the question. Searching for knowledge without going through the proper initiation is forbidden.

Even worse is the attitude adopted towards ancient builders and scientists. Ancient records and observations that don’t make sense are dismissed as superstitious, and those that conflict with what we know as incompetence. Structures and monuments are labeled as ‘inexplicable” because we all know that the ancients were incapable of building any such thing! And yet evidence continues to mount that far from being stupid our ancestors possessed equal, if not superior, intelligence and were on the brink of very similar technological discoveries! Discoveries such as the Antikythera Device indicate that we aren’t learning science for the first time; we’re relearning it. Sagan quips about the ancients being unable to make the difficult astronomical calculations Velikovsky attributes to them because they would have needed integral calculus to do so. But what if the knowledge existed and has merely been lost?

In conclusion; the ancients were not sub-intelligent and neither am I. Not having gone to university does not affect our ability to comprehend ideas like an infinite universe, or comets striking the earth. The superiority complex of the established scientific elite is just that: a superiority complex. There is no reason why you or I or someone who lived four thousand years ago, cannot discern the mysteries of the universe. And who’s to say we won’t?


Don’t Call Me Stupid! — 3 Comments

  1. It seems to me that most (all?) those troubles come from the evolutionary mindset. 😛 Of course the ancients were stupid–they were “less evolved”.

    Also, this: “No one knows how these scientists came into being, since apparently two thousand years ago there was no such thing.” made me think of the way evolutionist tend to think as well. 😛

    Anyway, I don’t think you or the ancient people are/were stupid, and I’m very interested in this theory… 😀

  2. Katie,
    I read Velikovsky in 1963. Are you familiar with Irving Michelson, (son of the Michelson of Michelson and Morely fame) and his defense of velikovsky. Are you by any chance the Katie Daniels who is expressing an interest in the NPA.

    • I don’t think I’ve read his defense, no. Some of that stuff is really hard to find. I’m working on Charles Ginenthal’s book “Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky” and I really want “The Velikosveky Heresies” but I’ve mostly just read his original work and the attacks. There’s just so much material to get through, and I’m rather late to the party. Is there anything you specifically recommend?

      And yes! I absolutely am.

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