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Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List


7. Immanuel Velikovsky and Worlds in Collision

An Austrian psychiatrist and amateur scholar, Velikovsky touted the thesis that ancient religious writings record evidence of recent catastrophes in the solar system, including the bizarre idea that Venus was a comet disgorged by Jupiter in historic times. His writing were once very popular, but now only a small underground of true believers keeps his work alive.

Goldsmith, Donald, ed. Scientists Confront Velikovsky. 1977, Norton. Proceedings of a symposium at the 1974 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Gould, S. "Velikovsky in Collision" in Natural History, Mar. 1975. (On the web at: )

Krupp, E. "Observatories of the Gods and Other Astronomical Fantasies" in Krupp, E.C., ed. In Search of Ancient Astronomies. 1977, Doubleday. Debunks von Daniken and Velikovsky's ideas, as well as the Sirius myth.

Morrison, David & Chapman, Clark "Catastrophism Gone Wild" in Cosmic Catastrophes. 1989, Plenum. Two noted astronomers examine our modern view of how impacts and other catastrophes have shaped the Earth, and, in the process, debunk Velikovsky's ideas.

Oberg, J., et al. "The Velikovsky Affair" in Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1980. An update and review following Velikovsky's death.

Sagan, Carl "Venus and Dr. Velikovsky" in Broca's Brain. 1979, Random House. A superb refutation of Velikovsky's ideas.

Stiebing, William Ancient Astronauts, Cosmic Collisions. 1984, Prometheus. Examines Velikovsky's claims.

Transcript of the 1974 AAAS Symposium: (A Velikovsky partisan offers a verbatim record of the session debating Velikovsky's views that forms the basis of the Goldsmith book, above. Note that Sagan's contribution was much expanded by the time it reached print.)

The Velikovsky Affair: Science fiction writer Pournelle offers commentary, background, and a nice essay by astronomer David Morrison entitled "Velikovsky at 50", which updates some of Sagan's 1974 arguments.

Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions: Former Velikovsky disciple turned critic Leroy Ellenberger marshals the arguments against the worlds in collision proposals.

Ten 10 Reasons Velikovsky is Wrong: (Good summary of Ellenberger's arguments.)

Skeptical Dictionary:

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8. Ancient Astronauts and Erich Von Daniken

A convicted Swiss embezzler (who wrote part of his best-selling Chariots of the Gods while in jail), Von Daniken claimed that there is a large amount of archaeological evidence that alien visitors helped us build many of the impressive artifacts that ancient civilizations left behind. (The insulting subtext here is that we needed the aliens' help because we humans were too stupid to build the Nazca lines or the pyramids by ourselves.) In fact, Von Daniken's books involve massive misinterpretations of archaeological data and a great deal of fabrication; the past, as the title of one the best debunking books vividly asserts, is human. Although his books are no longer as popular as they once were, his ideas have been incorporated into many new pseudo-science tracts and irresponsible television "pseudo-documentaries."

Stiebing, William Ancient Astronauts, Cosmic Collisions. 1984, Prometheus. A good skeptical introduction.

Story, Ronald The Space Gods Revealed. 1976, Harper & Row. Debunks Von Daniken's ideas.

Thiering, Barry & Castel, Edgar, eds. Some Trust in Chariots. 1975, Popular Library. Sixteen skeptical articles.

White, Peter The Past is Human. 1974, Taplinger. An archaeological perspective on Von Daniken's inventions.

Feder, Kenneth Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 2002, McGraw-Hill.

Lingemann, R. "Erich Von Daniken's Genesis" in the New York Times Book Review, March 30, 1974.

Nickell, J. "The Nazca Drawings Revisited" in Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1983. (on the web at:

Science or Charlatanism: Robert Sheaffer's short article challenges a number of Von Daniken's claims.

Von Daniken's 'Maya Astronaut': Examines the silly claim that a Maya sarcophagus lid shows an astronaut.

The Real Erich Von Daniken: A brief biography.

Skeptic's Dictionary:

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