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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bad Science, Weird Science, And Strange Mormon Prophecy

(Previous entry: City Creek: How Did We Come To This?)

I was never one of those people who saw science as the natural enemy of religion. Science can be incompatible with some religions of course, but that's just a sign that either the religion is faulty or that science is being disingenuously applied. Parley P. Pratt correctly asserted that theology was the ultimate science, since the aim of theology was to arrive at the truth about God and the universe.

Many of Joseph Smith's closest companions were accomplished academics, more than capable of expounding on the scientific theories of the day.  As Ardis Parshall has noted, Parley's brother Orson kept an observatory on the Salt Lake temple grounds, and he and others like him might have dedicated their lives to scientific study had they not been spent in the hardships of the frontier and the needs of a missionary church.

Later LDS scholars such as John Widtsoe, James Talmage, and B.H. Roberts had no trouble harmonizing science and religion because, unlike the professors of religion of other faiths, they were not tethered to a set of fixed beliefs that flew in the face of common sense.  As Daniel Brooks reminds us in his new book The Metaphysics and Science of Mormonism, we Mormons tend not to separate science (the how of the universe) from our religion (the why of the universe), because the two are considered complementary. "We feel they are two sides of the same coin," writes Brooks, "because to us, truth is truth and it has but one source." 1

Since the source of all truth has not yet revealed Himself on every possible question, we latter-day Saints are less inclined than others to dig in our heals and insist things happened one particular way over another.  Because we rely for our doctrine only upon direct revelation, and God has not yet told us everything He knows, we recognize that although we are free to speculate to our heart's content, there is little reason to get worked up over matters that God has not yet seen fit to reveal.

This willingness to keep an open mind is one of the things that put us at odds with a lot of other Christians at the dawn of the 20th century. As Phillip Barlow points out in his book Mormons and the Bible, unlike others, we don't hold to the bible as the final authority on everything. We recognize it has only some of the answers, not all of them. We do not assert, as some do, that "every single word in the bible is literally true."

We recognize instead that this particular set of 66 books and letters has not come down to us in pristine condition. Much is either missing or corrupted. It has been my experience that when someone insists that every single word of the bible is literally true, that person has probably never read every single word of the bible.

By the beginning of the 20th century, some religionists were declaring war on science, because science was challenging some of their sacred cows, such as the one about God creating the heavens and the earth in just seven days.  Of course it's possible for God to have divided the sea from the dry land in one 24 hour period, but latter-day Saints like Mormon scientist John A. Widtsoe felt it was also reasonable to assume the word "day" in the book of Genesis referred to a broader period of time (as it had elsewhere in the scriptures). But the Sectarians said no: the bible says seven days, so seven days it had to be.

Another commonly held belief was that God was some nebulous cosmic magician who, with the wave of his hand, created the universe ex nihilo. Mormon doctrine taught instead that God is an advanced being of superior intelligence who directed the creation by organizing matter that had always been in existence. This method of creation, though more reasonable and scientific, is rejected by many Christians as absurd.

If science and religion are to harmonize, both must approach the search for truth honestly, with respect for reason, logic, and common sense. But it is not just religionists who hold tightly to their fixed beliefs in the face of all evidence to the contrary. You should see how disingenuous some scientists can be when someone comes along with evidence that calls into question their own tightly held assumptions. Sometimes the scientific community itself has demonstrated a propensity for protecting its own sacred cow dogmas that no one is permitted to question.

The Science Of Suppression
The late James P. Hogan once observed that "science really doesn't exist. Scientific beliefs are either proved wrong, or else they quickly become engineering. Everything else is untested speculation."

Hogan was a science fiction writer of considerable renown who specialized in a branch of the genre known as hard science fiction, which meant he favored stories based on plausible science and technology, featuring probabilities that could feasibly occur, as opposed to, say, stories where the protagonist battled Bug-eyed Monsters from outer space.

Before turning to writing full time, Hogan had been an electronic engineer, and as a scientist himself, was acutely aware that quite a bit of what passed as scientific method in modern times is often blatantly unscientific. In some ways, we have not progressed much since the days of Gallileo, except that now instead of the Catholic Church persecuting and suppressing legitimate inquiry, it is the scientific establishment that combines to guard its turf from upstarts and outsiders. Hogan claimed that it was not unusual for these gatekeepers to refuse to even consider evidence that might challenge their dearly held assumptions. Hogan resisted this trend. He believed that "evidence must always take precedence over theory."

Yet hard evidence was something many in the entrenched scientific establishment sometimes wish to avoid looking at. In an interview Hogan gave in 2004, he gave away the secrets of the lodge:
"In the idealized science that textbooks tell us how science works, and the apologists for science, we have this vision of researchers performing experiments, perusing the pure knowledge; forming, collecting facts, then devising hypotheses to test predictions or theories to explain the facts and then devising experiments to test the theories. And if the predicted results are obtained, the theory is strengthened; and if the predicted results fail to happen then the theory is changed without bias, modified, or abandoned.
"It's a nice ideal. Sometimes I look at it and say well, it's kind of in the same league as in many cases what some people have said about Christianity and Socialism: a nice idea, and somebody should try it sometime.
"Disturbingly often, when prestige, experience, the natural human reluctance to admit one was wrong -rather than the theory being based on the fact, what's permissible to accept as fact can be dictated by the theory. Anomalous observations are suppressed, rejected, and ignored because they conflict with the theory."
That same year, with the assistance of others in the scientific community who also opposed the decline of honest inquiry, James Hogan published a book, Kicking The Sacred Cow: Questioning the Unquestionable and Thinking the Unthinkable. What particularly caught my eye when I picked up this book was that one of the case studies Hogan featured involved the work of one Immanuel Velikovsky, and how the scientific community ganged up to kick sand in Velikovsky's face for daring to publish evidence that contradicted long standing assumptions about the Earth and our solar system.

In his day, Velikovsky had managed to step on the toes of those in a multitude of disciplines as varied as astronomy, geology, and ancient history. But what makes his findings of interest to latter-day Saints is that they tend to confirm things Joseph Smith taught a hundred years earlier, teachings which really only start to make sense to us when illuminated by Velikovsky's research.

Ironically, after Velikovsky's first major book was published, many latter-day Saints, thinking they had found in him a kindred spirit, began sending Velikovsky copies of the Book of Mormon. Velikovsky threw them away in disgust. He was not a religious man, and resented his theories being used to bolster anyone's religious faith. Velikovsky was not interested religion; he was interested in evidence, and in following that evidence wherever it led.

A brilliant Russian Jew (non practicing) who emigrated to America in 1939, Velikovsky had been co-founder of the Hebrew University and friend of Albert Einstein (Velikovsky had, in fact, enlisted Einstein in preparing one of the University's textbooks). 2

Velikovsky's academic pedigree was second to none. Then in mid century he made the mistake of challenging the prevailing dogma by proposing that our solar system might not always have looked and operated as it does now; that at various points in ancient history, both Venus and Mars had come perilously close to earth and that a near collision with Venus in particular had been responsible for the cataclysms recorded in myth and legend throughout the ancient world, including many of the bible.
Velikovsky's great sin was in suggesting that the ancient texts that spoke of angry gods in the sky might been more than mere myth. He presented volumes of evidence to suggest maybe the reason the ancients spoke of seeing Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Saturn at very close range in the sky overhead was because it was more than likely they actually had.

When I was a budding young astronomer at twelve years of age, I saved up my paper route money and bought a new Gilbert 40 Power Reflecting Telescope so that I could see Mars for myself, the angry red planet with those famous canals criss-crossing the surface. Imagine my dismay when even with a fairly strong telescope I could scarcely locate that planet out there among the stars.  I could see it, barely, but I certainly couldn't tell if it was red. So, I wondered, if I can't see Mars at 40 power, how was it the Greeks and Romans told about observing Mars clearly in the sky many centuries before telescopes had ever been invented? No grownup I asked was ever able to give me an answer.

Velikovsky proposed that at various times in the distant past, the nearby planets, usually Mars or Venus -and often both together- were quite visible to the ancients, frequently appearing bigger and brighter than the moon. Velikovsky presented scrolls, clay tablets, hieroglyphs, and legends passed down from from every ancient society that told of seeing those two planets duking it out like angry dragons in the sky above.  These were the gods the ancients feared and worshiped. After the planets would fade back into distant space, kings and emperors kept wise men employed to watch the skies for the return of these gods, because every fifty years one of them would show up again, and when it did it always seemed to be accompanied by violence and devastation. 3
Velikovsky's first book, Worlds In Collision, was spurred by his curiosity about the plagues of Egypt as described in the Hebrew Book of Exodus. Scholars had long dismissed those biblical stories as fairy tales, since there were no corresponding descriptions in the Egyptian records from the time the exodus was supposed to have taken place. There simply was no evidence to confirm those events as described in the bible.

But Velikovsky had come across a set of ancient Egyptian scrolls in the British Museum known as The Admonitions of Ipuwer, which described catastrophic events in such detail and so identical to those in Exodus that he felt these scrolls had to be describing the same incident. The problem was that the Ipuwer papyri were presumed to represent an era some 500 years earlier than the time of the Exodus. Then Velikovsky discovered numerous instances of similar catastrophes occurring at the same time as the Ipuwer scrolls recorded, but in the ancient records of Assyria, Persia, Babylon, India, China, and Meso-America; all describing catastrophes identical to those in the Hebrew book of Exodus, and happening in the same order as the bible describes them. Even more incredible, these legends told of a gigantic comet or planet passing close to the earth which the ancients believed was responsible for the cataclysms they experienced, its tail spewing red dust into earth's atmosphere which polluted every lake and river and rendering the water of every nation undrinkable.

Velikovsky concluded that the reason the plagues of Egypt had been unknown to scholars at the time they should have taken place was because the scholars had erred significantly in their understanding of Egyptian chronology, and that was why it did not line up with that of the biblical record. The recent conclusions of Archaeologist David Rohl have since vindicated Velikovsky by confirming the true timeline, but in 1950 scholars of ancient history would not even entertain the idea they could have been so far off. 4

Velikovsky also put forth the novel idea that the comet responsible for all that devastation was actually what we know today as the planet Venus, which had not always been locked into the regular orbit familiar to us now.  Venus, the stories said, had actually begun life as a giant comet, birthed according to legend from the body of Jupiter, and that she had only finally settled into her familiar planetary orbit some 3500-5,000 years ago. He also described how the plagues of Egypt, as with those described in the legends of other ancient civilizations, were consistent with what would happen if earth passed through the end of a comet's tail a million miles long, as that of a body the size of Venus would have been, and he demonstrated how those plagues, and the order they occurred in, would be consistent with what would happen if our planets came close to colliding with one another.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word which the bible translates as "hail" is barad, which actually means "hot stones." But the King James translators felt that was ridiculous -hot stones don't fall from the sky, ice does.  So the bible tells of hailstones that magically turned to flame after hitting the ground, destroying everything. And apparently it was not just the wicked Egyptians who were killed by this devastating meteor shower. Despite God's warning to His people to stay indoors, The Midrashic texts record that 49 out of 50 Israelites were killed during the plagues of Egypt because they failed to heed the warnings of Moses. As was reported in every corner of the ancient world, no society escaped the global devastation unscathed.

Orthodoxy In Collision
Worlds In Collision really took off with the public when it appeared in 1950, and quickly became a bestseller. But almost immediately suspicion was cast on this immigrant with a thick Russian accent who threatened to turn the scientific world upside down with his revolutionary ideas. The Dallas News suggested Worlds In Collision was a communist propaganda ploy. One British intellectual felt the book was a move by U.S. warmongers to soften the world up for the atomic war they were preparing to launch.

Reviews of the book from the scientific community were almost uniformly negative.  But what strikes the reader looking back on this controversy is the observation that, almost to a man, no one who gave Velikovsky's book an unfavorable review seems to have ever bothered to read it. Several reviewers actually boasted of not going near it, as if the very act of touching the book might contaminate their brains.  One astronomer in particular insisted in his review that the book was nothing but lies, on the same page declaring he had not read it and never would read it.  Most reviews echoed an early reviewer who misquoted Velikovsky and misrepresented his thesis, clear evidence they themselves had not read the book, but relied instead on some other person's review of it and then passing judgment based on that one flawed analysis. This was not just bad science, this was irresponsible journalism.

Among most of the scientists and scholars who had actually read Worlds In Collision, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, but their accolades were drowned out by all the negative press.  Although the furor was largely focused on the person of Velikovsky the Russian Jew, ignoring his arguments, this systematic disinformation campaign left the majority of scientists with the impression that Velikovsky had been demolished by those who knew better.

If, as Hogan insists, evidence must take precedence over theory, the problem the entrenched scientific community faced was that Velikovsky had buckets full of evidence, if anyone cared to look. For any who cared to delve into the sources, the geological evidence alone supported Velikovsky's thesis. Now, 60 years later, space missions and probes have confirmed much of what Velikovsky had concluded regarding the make up and movements of the planets, including the presence of argon and neon gasses on the surface of Venus and radio waves emitting from Jupiter, which Velikovsky insisted would have had to be present. Even as early as 1963 he was beginning to be vindicated, at least in some quarters. "Science itself," wrote Eric Larrabee in Harper's Magazine, "even while most scientists have considered his case to be closed, has been headed in Velikovsky's direction...There is scarcely one of Velikovsky's ideas which has not since been propounded in all seriousness by a scientist of repute." 5

Weird, Wacky, And Off The Wall
The problem with attempting to summarize Velikovsky's theories is that it isn't easy to present them in any succinct manner that doesn't make them appear too incredible to believe. Velilovsky himself tired of people trying to condense his findings into a few paragraphs, because without the exacting explanations and documentation he provided in his books, his theories were rarely accurately conveyed. Hugh Nibley has said that Velikovsky was right, while acknowledging the difficulty in trying to accurately summarize his work. 6

Even Anthony Larson, the man most responsible for introducing Velikovsky to thousands of latter-day Saint readers, initially thought Velikovsky's ideas were bizarre. That was because he himself first heard it second hand. But after picking up Worlds In Collision and reading it for himself, he recognized something that rang a bell.  Didn't Joseph Smith speak of a planet or a comet coming near to the earth?

Larson set out to compare the prophet's more obscure and obtuse statements with what Velikovsky had discovered and realized that a basic understanding of Velikovsky's research could be a very valuable key in understanding those teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith that have bewildered modern Mormons. Many of these teachings are not even well known to most of us, as they ceased to be openly taught because, well, they don't really make a lot of sense.

Larson asserts that no study of the Restored Gospel can be complete without a thoroughgoing understanding of ancient cosmology. It is the very foundation of all prophetic imagery, employed in the scriptures and in our latter-day temples. Without that knowledge, we simply cannot fully comprehend either the scriptures or the meaning of the temple. Says Larson:
"We are as children trying to read a book when they have learned only the alphabet. The letters on the page are familiar to them, but they make no sense of the words. Yet they pride themselves on recognizing the letters, saying that they 'understand,' when they know nothing of the real message contained therein."
Though many of the prophet's esoteric teachings were widely understood among the membership of the church 150 years ago, today we tend, on those rare occasions when we stumble across them at all, to dismiss these statements as mere metaphor or poetic descriptions, since they appear unlikely on their face.  But Larson shows that the Prophet had a clear understanding of the way our solar system looked in ancient times, and of the dynamic changes we can expect to see both in the heavens and on the earth just prior to Christ's return. After Velikovsky's death, many other competent academics, chief among them David Talbott and Walter Thornhill, have continued to compile recent scientific discoveries that build upon Velikovky's research. These discoveries can further assist us in understanding early LDS teachings.

What the ancients thought was the Eye of God.
The Times They Were A-Changin'
The apostle Peter said that after the flood, there was not only a new earth, but a new sky appeared as well. Ancient legends passed down from every known civilization bear him out. Many legends tell of a devastating flood accompanied by great cataclysmic destruction, and after it was all over, the stars in the sky were no longer where they had been before. The poles had shifted and the world had gone cattywampus. The sky looked completely different.

But it wasn't the sky that had changed, it was the earth's position. When God tells us we live in a fallen world, perhaps we should interpret that on more than one level. The earth seems to have "fallen" into its present orbit.

Joseph Smith once drew a sketch for his friend and bodyguard Philo Dibble to show him how the sky above the earth had originally looked. The prophet told Dibble that in ancient times Saturn, Venus, and Mars had been aligned above the earth in a straight polar configuration. 7  The way the two smaller planets sat in front of the larger one, it seemed to the superstitious ancients as though the eye of God was watching them from the sky. Anthony Larson explains:
The Dibble Facsimile. (Not drawn to scale.)
"The solar system we know today is a recent  development. Earth was once part of a grouping of orbs that shared a common axis of rotation, the defining element of the Earth’s condition anciently. This proposition, purportedly offered by none other than Joseph Smith himself, was so unique, so peculiar, that there was nothing in modern experience to explain it.

"With only one or two exceptions, Mormon scholars ignored — even avoided — the claims of Dibble and his facsimile. They believed there was no evidence that anything remotely like the configuration of orbs Joseph Smith proposed in his illustration once truly existed. It was simply too unbelievable to accept—until David Talbott’s research into ancient myth and tradition led him to proffer a similar configuration for the ancient solar system."
I can think of no better visual representation that the ones presented in this short excerpt from Talbott's own documentary Symbols Of An Alien Sky; 8 The pertinent graphics begin at about the 2:52 mark.

The way our sky looks today is the way it has ever since the great upheaval. Modern revelation tells us that sometime in the future the sky will change dramatically again, and when it does we will definitely feel it here on earth.  Joseph Smith's understanding of the stars and planets in our solar system mirrored what Velikovsky found in the legends of ancient civilizations.  Therefore, a basic overview of what Velikovsky discovered can go a long way in helping us to unlock the secrets of our own doctrines.

Though completely foreign to us, the prophets of old often spoke in a language that referenced symbols familiar to the people living in those days. Latter-day revelation follows the same rules and uses the same imagery of the old testament prophets. Master the imagery of the ancients, and you will have mastered the meaning of many latter-day revelations that have long been closed to our understanding.

When Prophecy Reads Like Gibberish
Probably the only time I ever disagreed with Joseph Smith was when I read his statement that "the Book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God had ever caused to be written."

Was he nuts? I had to wonder: had Joseph Smith actually ever read the Book of Revelation? I had. Or at least I had tried to back in Seminary. The Revelation of John couldn't have been less plain to me if it was written in Aramaic. I had no idea what John was talking about, and if Joseph Smith said it was the plainest book, I wasn't sure he knew what he was talking about either.

But then I read Anthony Larson's chapter on John's Revelation in his book "And the Moon Shall Turn To Blood." Seen in the light of Velikovsky's findings regarding how the ancients understood the symbols in the sky, John's revelation made perfect sense, as John is telling us we will be seeing much the same types of disruptions in the last days. Much of what we find incomprehensible in scripture would not have been confusing at all to John's contemporaries to whom his letter was addressed. Once we are taught to see this prophecy with their eyes, it opens right up. The nonbeliever Velikovsky, of all people, enables our understanding.

Anthony Larson's first book on the subject, And The Moon Shall Turn To Blood, was first published in 1983, followed by two subsequent volumes which introduced thousands of latter-day Saints to an interpretation of both ancient and modern prophecies that became crystal clear when held up to Velikovsky's research on ancient symbolism. These books sold steadily for years, then for more than a decade they became more difficult to find. I was happy to discover that Deseret Book is again carrying all three volumes, so an understanding of the mysteries is much more accessible to those who take the advice of the Prophet when he taught that the mysteries are unfolded only to those willing to put forth the effort.

When I re-read Larson's fascinating treatise for the second time recently, I started with the appendix in the back, which contains a brief overview of Velikovsky's thesis. Here Larson provides a concise overview of Velikovsky's research into the ancient world. The remainder of the book demonstrates applications of these findings to some of Joseph Smith's more esoteric teachings, enabling us to more fully understand what it was the prophet was talking about. On more than one occasion the Prophet spoke of the upheavals to watch for just prior to Christ's return:
"There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earthquakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds; then will appear one great sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, &c. But the Son of man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 286-287)
Often some of the most revealing statements Joseph Smith made were delivered in an off-handed way, and it's an easy thing to overlook the profundities within.  When the Prophet states in Doctrine & Covenants 121:12 that "God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons," we don't think anything like the altering of time is going to literally take place. After all, things have pretty much remained in the order we know them for the past two thousand years, so they must have always been so.

Had we lived anciently and experienced "the day of the Lord's wrath," we might have seen the kinds of changes that would convince us to take God's word more literally. It is well to consider that God does not engage in empty rhetoric. Velikovsky cites many ancient sources that tell how drastically the world had changed after the appearance of the great comet. "The winter is come as summer, the months are reversed and the hours are disordered," states the Papyrus Anastasi IV, while the Tao records that "the breath of heaven is out of harmony...The four seasons do not observe their proper times." 9 An ancient Mayan text states that "the order of the seasons was altered at that epoch." Plutarch's Morals relates how
"The thickened air concealed the heaven from view, and the stars were confused with a disorderly huddle of fire and moisture and violent fluxations of winds.  The sun was not fixed to a wandering and certain course, so as to distinguish orient and Occident, nor did he bring back the seasons in order."
Velikovsky explains:
"With the fall of the ancient [Egyptian] Middle Kingdom and the Exodus, one of the great world ages came to its end. The four quarters of the world were displaced, and neither the orbit nor the poles nor, probably, the direction of rotation remained anew. The astronomical values of the year and the day could not be the same before and after an upheaval in which, as the quoted Papyrus Anastasi says, the months were reversed and 'the hours disordered.' " 10
It's well known that the Assyrians, Aztecs, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Chaldeans, Chinese, Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks, Hebrews, Hindus, Incas, Mayans, Olmecs, Persians, Phoenicians, Romans, Teutons, and Tebetans all used to observe a 360 day calendar. Later, they were forced to adopt a 365 day year. That certainly suggests a change in the rotation of the earth. Whatever tumultuous catastrophe occurred back then, it was considered the end of an age for a lot of civilizations.

As Anthony Larson suggests, if God sets his hand once again to change the times and seasons in the last days, the beginning of the Millenium will undoubtedly be remembered as the end of one world age and the beginning of another. 11

In light of all this, it seems reasonable to assume that when the Lord tells us the hour will come when "peace will be taken from the earth,"([D&C 1:35) he is not referring simply to endless warfare between nations. Such conflicts have always taken place on the earth throughout recorded history. It's more likely what God is telling us is that peace will be taken from the earth itself, from the planet, which will undergo tectonic and tidal eruptions unknown since ancient times. As God told Joseph Smith, prior to His coming the entire planet will
"tremble and reel to and fro like a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, shall refuse to give light, and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry...For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand."
"And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely men's hearts will fail them, for fear shall come upon all people. And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together."
I used to hope I might live to see the ushering in of the Millenium, but after reading that, I've changed my mind. I now hope I've shuffled off this mortal coil long before that stuff hits the fan.

I could go on and on describing the fascinating explications of prophecy contained in Larson's trilogy, and heaven knows that longtime readers of this blog can testify how I can ramble on and beat a topic to death. So instead I think I'll stop here and just recommend you read Anthony Larson's books for yourselves. Each volume is priced at only $15.00 each, and they are slender enough that you can finish each one in an afternoon. Far from being stodgy and academic, I found each one filled with astonishing insights, and interesting asides regarding such things as eye witness descriptions of the Great Chicago Fire. 12

That fire was not started, as legend has it, by Mrs. O'leary's cow kicking over a lantern in a barn. Witnesses tell us it bore more of a resemblance to fire raining down from heaven, as various locations in the city erupted in flames virtually all at once.  The reason we hear only about this awful conflagration as having occurred in Chicago is because in 1871 Chicago was the only metropolis in the area. That made it newsworthy. But as it turns out, devastating fires were erupting throughout the midwest at the very same moment as that fiery holocaust in Chicago, destroying plains and forests embracing an area of 400 square miles. The devastation covered an area encompassing parts of four Midwestern states, though much of the area was sparsely populated. It occurred as suddenly as a gas explosion. I had heard of the Great Chicago Fire, but I had never heard any of this.

I had also not heard that in Chicago, solid brick buildings standing nowhere near any wooden structures were reduced to ash in seconds, and steel bars stacked in steelyards out in the open away from any burning edifices were afterward found melted into puddles on the ground. Untold numbers of corpses were found in open spaces away from any signs of fire or burning buildings. These bodies bore no signs of having been burned or charred. But when sliced open, these people's lungs were found to have been instantly seared on the inside, as if they had inhaled a flash of lightning. Coins in the pockets of these hapless souls were found fused together as though hit with a sudden electrical charge, yet their bodies showed little outward trauma.

What could have caused such bizarre catastrophes all at once over such a wide area? Astronomers tell of the comet Biela's return that day, and that in a freak occurrence not seen before, Biela had split into two parts, causing it to behave in ways not formerly understood.

But there I go again. I could talk about this stuff forever. There is so much I find intriguing about the stories Larson shares, such as Joseph Smith's teaching regarding the Tower of Babel. In the first place, the people were not trying to build a tower to get to heaven, but to Zion. And secondly, the reason the Babylonians thought they could build a tower to get there was because Zion was not some unseen mythical land far off in the clouds somewhere. What they thought was Zion was clearly visible to all; a large sphere right there directly over their heads. Apparently, the planet looked to be close enough to almost reach out and touch.

Seen in that light, the building of the tower of Babel doesn't seem like such a moronic undertaking. It was foolish, to be sure, but I might have thought it a good idea to participate in the project myself had I been there at the time. I can easily see how it would have made perfect sense to me to stack brick upon brick, and stone upon stone, until I got close enough to just climb on board.

The Key To Prophecy
Velikovsky went on to write additional volumes on the catastrophic view of history, including Ages in Chaos and Earth in Upheaval.  In his subsequent books and on his website, Larson presents these later findings and shows how they can assist in  illuminating the organic teachings of Joseph Smith and those who knew him. In addition to volume I of Larson's trilogy, "And The Moon Shall Turn To Blood," there is a second volume, "And The Earth Shall Reel To And Fro," and a third, "And There Shall Be A New Heaven And A New Earth." All are available through Deseret Book or on Amazon.

Complementing these books, Larson provides a series of recorded webinars that examine ancient cosmology and its relationship to the scriptures.  If you really want to experience a paradigm shift, that's where I'd recommend you go first. Larson takes the student whole dimensions beyond the books. After taking this 16 hour course, you will have mastered the imagery of the scriptures and the prophets along with having a clearer understanding of the meaning of temple architecture and rituals. Larson says,
"The key to all prophetic symbolism lies in the knowledge of ancient cosmic imagery. Without those vital keys, all scripture is to us as a sealed book, including the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Savior himself."
 You can find those seminars on Larson's website,, along with several interesting articles.

In mentioning to some of my friends my plans to write on this topic, I was encouraged to find so many who were already familiar with Anthony Larson's work.  Now that his books are again available, there seems to be a resurgence of interest, as just last week Tim Malone posted on his blog, Latter-day Commentary, a review of Larson's initial book that was so thorough I considered scrapping my own plans to address the topic here. If you'd like an excellent summary of what I've been trying to put across here, check out Tim's assessment on Latter-day Commentary.

Of course, you can't beat hearing directly from the source, and quite recently Anthony Larson was the subject of an audio interview on The Good Word podcast. My only problem with that interview was that at only 27 minutes, it ended just as it was really getting going.  I especially liked hearing how Anthony compared the TV show CSI with the way historical analysis had been commonly performed prior to Velikovsky. "No self respecting investigator would go out and examine a crime scene and collect evidence without also interrogating the eye witnesses," says Larson. "But science decided that the eyewitnesses [in the ancient world] were untrustworthy, and so they refused to consider their testimony. They just collected what they considered to be evidence, and that's given us a perverse view of ancient history."

Or to paraphrase Hugh Nibley, anyone can slice open the side of a hill, look at the layers of sediment there, and guess about how long it took to get there and how it got there.  What they fail to do is consult the records, because mankind saw all this happen and they reported it. But science throws the records out because they consider them to be untrustworthy. They were thought to be nothing but myths, legends, and fables.

Velikovsky believed honest scientific inquiry required that the testimony of the witnesses on the scene be included in any analysis. When he did so, it changed the verdict of history, and left many astronomers, geologists, classical historians, and others looking negligent. They didn't like that.

All these years after his death, Velikovsky still has his detractors, but I find those who are dismissive of Velikovsky have either not bothered to thoroughly investigate his claims, or they are being dishonest, as was the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose leadership vigorously combined to exclude Velikovsky's views from being given a fair hearing at a 1974 conference ostensibly set up for that very purpose. 13

What few detractors remain today either misrepresent the evidence, or they engage in ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments rather than addressing Velikovsky's actual research and refuting it head on.  I find them about as convincing as those who tried for years to get the world to ignore Nicolai Tesla, whose experiments and discoveries in electricity threatened to leave Thomas Edison in the dust. During both men's lifetimes, Edison got all the positive press while Tesla got an undeserved reputation for being a disturbed mad scientist. But today Tesla is beginning to get the credit due him, and new generations of scientists are coming around to recognizing the genius of  Immanuel Velikovsky.

Something I found noteworthy occurred recently when the Curiosity Rover revealed that the surface of the planet Mars was not red after all, but just covered in a layer of red dust. It would seem that whatever Venus did to the earth to turn our rivers to blood, she may have given Mars a rougher go of it. (It should also be noted that in 1950, when Velikovsky published his book, there was still vigorous debate in the scientific community about whether or not Mars had intelligent life on it. Velikovsky's assertions that Mars was a dead planet threw cold water on those assumptions, which some saw as a further affront.)

Credit should be given to those in the scientific community who, though disagreeing with Velikovsky in some areas, chastised their collegues who chose to mock Velikovsky and dismiss him outright. One such level-headed academic was astronomer J. Derrol Mulholland, who reminded his collegues:
"If it is the function of science to explain man's relation to his universe, then these are questions of serious significance and should be dealt with seriously. Velikovsky's challenge is not one to be decided on a basis of belief or unbelief. He does not say, 'Trust me'; he says 'This conclusion is suggested by the observations.' It is not sufficient to reply that his ideas are absurd; there are too many examples of absurd ideas come true.

"Are the explanations plausible? From at least one vantage point, yes indeed. If a planet sized object were to pass close by the Earth, then giant tides would be raised; there would be global earthquakes; the north pole would change direction; the day, the month, the seasons, the year would all change. Faith is not involved here; these are unavoidable consequences of the laws of motion as we presently know them. We must accept that the dynamical aspects of Velikovsky's visions of hell on Earth are largely acceptable. This is not to accept that the events he described ever happened, for there are questions that need to be resolved." 14
When science is thought of as the source of ultimate knowledge, its purpose and function are misrepresented. Pure science is ever in flux as mankind continues to learn new things. Science is not supposed to have all the answers, it is supposed to be a process for questioning. The same is true of religion, and those zealous Religionists who stubbornly lock themselves out of the world of discoveries taking place around them are as closed-minded as those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of unseen worlds in the spiritual realm. The search for truth requires us to step outside of the dogmas of our fixed beliefs and go exploring in areas we might not feel comfortable.

Velikovsky resented the efforts of Mormons to convert him because he wasn't interested in validating anyone's faith, or even in proving the Exodus story of the bible.  If Velikovsky had a religion, it was an obsession for discovery, and the belief that pure science requires that evidence take precedence over theory.

It is just a little ironic then, that Velikovsky was embraced by people of faith more readily than those whose job it was to examine the evidence. What intrigues me about the juxtaposition of Mormon prophecy with Velikovsky's research is that with the passage of time, the weird science of the visionary Velikovsky is being vindicated at the same time as the stranger teachings of Joseph Smith are being rediscovered. Both have come to meet at a place where science and religion intersect; where evidence conjoins with faith.

Writing in The Velikovsky Heresies: Worlds In Collision and Ancient Catastrophes Revisited, author Laird Scranton had this to say:
"In some ways, Velikovsky became to traditional scientists in the 1950s what Groucho Marx had been to the social elite of the 1930s -the irrepressible outsider who, while steadfastly refusing to play by traditional rules, still threatened to beat an entrenched elite at their own game, with the potential to make them look ridiculous in the process." 15
I think you could say something similar about the religious visionary Joseph Smith.

(But first, a footnote about the footnotes: I felt this particular piece warranted the inclusion of footnotes, something I have not ventured to include in any of my previous posts because this platform does not provide a built-in program for that. So I spent all day attempting to insert the necessary code by hand.  The idea was that readers would be able to click on a number in the text, which would immediately jump them to the corresponding footnote here at the bottom of the page. A simple click on an arrow provided would send you right back to the place in the text where you left off.

Well, apparently my tiny dinosaur brain was not up to the task, because the end result was that when a reader clicked on a number, he or she was sent off-site entirely and wound up on a page that invited them to start their own blog. I have no idea why or how that happened. Meanwhile here on my end, the text of the article kept getting more and more messed up. So ultimately I decided to tear that new code out to save us all a lot of frustration. Where I could, I went back to the old fashioned method of embedding links in the text, but I still kept some of the footnotes intact here, as you can see.  Unfortunately, you cannot easily jump back and forth as I had intended you could, so for that I apologize. And if indeed you are interested in starting your own blog, I suggest you consider the Wordpress platform which I am told enables the use of footnotes.)

1 The Metaphysics and Science of Mormonism is the first and only book I know of that mentions me by name, so on that basis alone it deserves to become a bestseller. My name is on page 18. Tell everyone you know.

2 At the time of Einstein's death, Velikovsy's book, Worlds in Collision was found open on his desk. 

3 Our modern term for "Wise Man" derives from the Middle English "wys hard," or Wizard. When Disney animators drew the pointy hat Mickey Mouse borrowed from his sorcerer boss in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the stars, planets, and comets they drew onto the hat were based on the garb of Druidic wizards, whose hats and robes were said to be embroidered with celestial bodies to denote the field of knowledge passed down to them from the ancients. 

4 Rohl is a historian and archaeologist specializing in ancient Egyptology, and was the catalyst behind the groundbreaking Discovery Channel series Pharoahs and Kings which addressed the revisions in the Egyptian timeline, which clarified and validated many persons and events mentioned in the bible.

5 Harper's Magazine August 1963.

6  Nibley Acknowledges Velikovsky's three major works in his comprehensive manual on The Old Testament.
7 Dibble was also in possession of the Jupiter talisman once belonging to Joseph Smith, and which is now in the archives of the Church. Photographs of Jupiter talismans can be found on pages 346-347 of D. Michael Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. In light of the discoveries of Anthony Larson, Joseph's use of planetary imagery seems less motivated by backwoods superstition as by his appreciation for ancient prophetic imagery. It is worth noting that stars and planets adorn the exterior of the Nauvoo and Salt Lake temples, and that above the veil of the Salt Lake celestial room is a rendition of the goddess Venus emerging from her "shell." to those with an understanding of the symbolism, that rendering represents something entirely different than the Greco-Roman fresco would imply. 

8 The full documentary is available on Youtube here.

9 Worlds In Collision, pg 135.

10 ibid.

11 And The Moon Shall Turn To Blood, pg 73.

12 And The Earth Shall Reel To And Fro, volume II appendix A, pg 155.

13 The A.A.A.S might have more accurately be represented by the acronym A.S.S. -the Association for the Supression of Science. For a detailed summary of the cheating shenanigans the association orchestrated to make sure Velikovksy's findings would not receive a fair hearing, see Hogan, Pg 188-192. For the antidote to Velikovsky's critics, and to locate scientific findings that tend to vindicate his work, see the collection of essays contained in Velikovsky Reconsidered, (by the editors of Pensees) and more recently The Velikovsky Heresies: Worlds in Collision and Ancient Catastrophes Revisited by Laird Scranton. Also of note is a book written by Ruth Velikovsky Sharon, Immanuel Velikovsky's daughter: Immanuel Velikovsky - The Truth Behind The Torment. According to the description at Amazon: Ruth "publishes original letters in their entirety, shedding a revealing light on the defamatory campaign Velikovsky and his scientific work have been subjected to by the scientific establishment down to the present day. In a second part, plasma physicist C.J. Ransom undertakes a reevaluation of Velikovsky's research from the point of view of recent scientific developments."

14 From Scientists Confront Velikovsky, ed. Donald Goldsmith; quoted in Scranton, The Velikovsky Heresies pg 14.

15 Scranton, pg 2 ibid

Again, the pertinent links to Anthony Larson's work:

For the Webinars, click here.

To listen to the recent audio podcast interview, click here

(Next: Training Day)


Anonymous said...

Excellent article, Rock! When I first read Anthony Larson's articles, I was introduced to a whole new vista of understanding, religiously and scientifically!

I've since been studying the works of many scholars in the "true" scientific world. I have concluded after my studies, thus far, that science and religion are inseparable bedfellows, for if truth bears itself out in one, it has to in the other.

I am emailing this article to a man I have followed for quite some time, whom I greatly respect. He is Professor James McCanney, one of the foremost scientific minds of today. His views on the so-called scientists of today (he calls them "tier-two", most of which are hired by NASA to continue the perpetuation of false scientific doctrines) are similar to those you have expressed here. He is a "nuts and bolts" scientist of no small renown, but who, like Velikovsky, has been poo-pooed by mainstream scientists. I'm hoping to give him an accurate view of what Mormonism in its early years taught regarding the true application of science to religion.

I believe God himself is a "nuts and bolts" kind of guy, who works his miracles through natural law. Mysticism disappears in the face of revealed truth as borne out in science, nature and mathematics. It's so nice to have gotten out of the box! Winnie

Anonymous said...

Love love love this stuff! This is an area where it seems many LDS fear to tread due to the enormity, and the speculative nature of the cosmos. "The search for truth requires us to step outside of the dogmas of our fixed beliefs and go exploring in areas we might not feel comfortable". So true. Gaining a desire to understand the the theology of cosmology will take you places that are exciting, and spiritually rejuvinating. Diving into this "meat" head first will give us cause to seek more dilligently His word and will help us to recognize our place on this earth.

Michael Keeney said...

Great article, Rock! Although, I have to admit that I'll probably need to re-read it a couple of times to completely take in all you are saying.

Looks like I need to dig out my late mother's copy of "And The Moon Shall Turn to Blood" well as purchasing the other two of Larson's books.

Anonymous said...

Interesting timing with that meteor hitting Russia...

Anonymous said...

Very enlightening article!

I agree that we must take the Bible with a huge grain of salt. Every play the game where you whisper a phrase around a circle? After just 1 or 2 people it can be so different, add that with many translator's deliberate desire to deceive or change words and you see why the Bible is so unreliable today.

Even comparing Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible shows that in many, if not most, cases the whole meaning of the verse was changed from what it should be.

One of the best examples, I believe, is where it says that Eve was made from Adam's rib. Now that would be a miracle! But I believe she was born the same way everyone else was. But it does show how incorrect the Bible can be or 'seem'.

And another example is how it says men should 'rule over' Eve. Which now would be considered and realized as serious spouse abuse and totally against Christ's teachings. Scholars have pointed out the original words actually mean 'rule with' Eve, which is in harmony with Christ's teachings.

Science & knowledge are very important in our search to understand religious doctrine and ancient meanings.

Shawn C said...

I like Anthony Larson. I have attended some of the symposiums he used to put on.

Reminds me a little of Ron Meldrum. He is the one with the theories of the Nephite lands being in the great lakes area of the US. His ideas are very much in line with comments from Joseph abou that area including pointing out to Zions camp where many of the Nephite cities were. The BYU "scholars" who have built a reputation on the Central America theories do not examine his evidence, only try to belittle and diminish him. They even go so far as to say that Joseph had it wrong. How very entertaining. Sad.

spanner said...

Maybe a science fiction writer is not the best authority on the state of science.

And Velikovsky's theories have been thoroughly investigated and falsified (a brief example of one of many facets falsified is that his explanation of biblical manna being created through interaction the two atmospheres as Venus nearly missed earth relies on Venus having hydrocarbons in its atmosphere. Venus has a carbon dioxide atmosphere and the manna producing reaction would have been impossible). That a few minor facets of his hypothesis will pass the test is to be expected that's what pseudoscience is. They do not give a free pass to the major and critical facets that are falsified. All of the links in the chain must work. Velikovsky has been utterly refuted if you take the time to do objective research.

A recent book discussing both of the above points (the state of science and Velikovsky) is reviewed here:

Shawn C said...

So this comment...

"Since the source of all truth has not yet revealed Himself on every possible question, we latter-day Saints are less inclined than others to dig in our heals and insist things happened one particular way over another. Because we rely for our doctrine only upon direct revelation, and God has not yet told us everything He knows, we recognize that although we are free to speculate to our heart's content, there is little reason to get worked up over matters that God has not yet seen fit to reveal.

This willingness to keep an open mind is one of the things that put us at odds with a lot of other Christians at the dawn of the 20th century."

Which Latter Day Saints are you referring to? Those I know that have an open enough mind to consider things from this perspective are VERY few and far between. If it didn't come from the mouth of a CURRENT GA, then it's not worth considering, and things like that.

Perhaps growing up in Utah and now living in Boise Idaho area is part of the problem? :-)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

This is the type of determinative silliness that finds me shaking my head; the tendency of Velikovsky's critics to latch onto some immaterial speculation Velkovsky tossed out and treating it as central to his thesis.

It may serve to re-read Dr. Mulholland's comment above where he says "Velikovsky's challenge is not one to be decided on a basis of belief or unbelief. He does not say, 'Trust me'; he says 'This conclusion is suggested by the observations.' "

Pull up the Wikipedia entry on "Manna" and you'll find several compelling theories as to what it was and what it is said to be composed of, examples which can still be found in the flora growing in the middle east. The bottom line is we just don't know. I have read much of Velikovsky's own writings, but I have not read everything; still, I don't take from Velikovsky the idea that he felt he had solved the ancient mystery of Manna, either. He simply offered a suggestion.

I'm currently reading the book alluded to in the review you linked to above, and so far the author seems to ignore the schools of thought that tend to side with Velikovsky and his findings. (The reviewer dismisses those willing to give an ear to both sides by referring to them as a "gaggle of disciples.")

Being willing to hear both sides of a controversial issue does not mean one has concluded that every single speculative assertion has been proven, or ever will be. But in light of the numbers of reputable scientists and engineers who have found much to validate in Velikovsky's research, and the volumes of dissertations they have published on it, I find it disingenuous to propose that Velikovsky has been "utterly refuted" or even that "all of the links in the chain must work."

As in many of the things modern latter-day Saints believe about their own religion, some of it is doctrinal, and some of it simply the traditions of men mingled with scripture. It is when we decide that "It's either all true or it's all a fraud" that we begin to find ourselves with a problem. Parochial thinking narrows the mind; it is not the path to truth.

I have found that the safest path to knowledge is to study all sides of an issue, not just the one that appeals to me. So far, I am unimpressed with those who snarkily dismiss honest inquiry as Steven Shapin has. But I'm still willing to hear such people out.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well Shawn, of course I was not referring to the majority of modern latter-day Saint "True Believers." I was referencing the minds of those early 20th century Mormon scientists I named, who I think were indicative of the open-mindedness of the general church population in the days before Correlation captured the collective mind.

In his recent interview on the " podcast, Robert Rees says there are two kinds of Mormons he is concerned with: those who don't think, and those who only think. Today we seem to have a preponderance of Saints who, as you infer, only echo the thoughts of their leaders, and are unwilling to do any thinking of their own.

In the years between, say, 1914 and 1930, we had some real minds in our midst. I'd say that by the 1980s, the correlation program had snuffed most of that out.

The good news, however, is that we are lately seeing a reawakening of the kind of Mormon intellect and individualism this church once was crawling with. I'm encouraged. As long as they don't all give up and leave.

Anonymous said...

Rock rocks!

Voluntaryist said...

Government funding has also corrupted science. NY Times best-selling historian Tom Woods explained:

"There is a wonderful book by Terence Kealey called 'The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.' The scientific establishment absolutely hated him for writing this book. He showed that every single one of the claims that are made for government science funding are faulty. Not one of them actually conforms to the observed data.

Moreover, what typically happens with government science funding is that one point of view is privileged, because politicians feel like they can't get away with funding one approach to cancer cures and a contradictory approach to cancer cures because they are afraid taxpayers will say 'Hey! You’re funding different things, and half of them will be wrong!' So the politicians say 'What's the consensus among scientists?' They pour all the money into the consensus, and that builds up this one way of thinking. Anybody who is a dissenter from that is immediately ostracized, marginalized, can't get any attention etc. And so science becomes inevitably politicized."

Me from Cali said...

“The prophet told Dibble that in ancient times Saturn, Venus, and Mars had been aligned above the earth in a straight polar configuration.”

Well, how about that! Then I suppose, as well, there really are people on the moon dressed like Quakers.

Sandra said...

I enjoyed your post. I've seen a lot of the YouTube videos, read the books and personally took an online live classes with Mr. Larsen. Enjoyed them. Unfortunately people don't get it for what ever reason. It's okay. We that listen and do, will be prepared to help those that don't understand when TSHTF. That is... if we choose to.

the_mormonion said...

This is the first new post you've done since I discovered your blog, Rock, and I gotta admit, I got a little excited when I saw it. What a refreshing look at the world of the Latter-day Saints. Thank you for the time you've put into this.

I'll leave with a couple quotes from the great Hugh Nibley that came to mind as I read this:

"Science without religion, like philosophy without religion, has nothing to feed on... It is my contention that any branch of human thought without religion soon withers and dies of anemia."

"What kind of science is it that bases its theories on evidence not yet discovered?... Our great and thrilling detective drama begins by telling us who did it, right at the beginning, and then expects us to wait around with bated breath while the detective brings the evidence."

Ljn aka Toni said...

Rock, I enjoyed your post. I've owned Larsen's trilogy for some years. Fascinating books.

As for your problem with footnotes: My blog is also blogspotdotcom and I discovered something. I wrote a post on my word processing program* and added footnotes when I wrote the post. I honestly believed I had to copy and paste the footnotes separately. I was very surprised to see that they had transferred over as footnotes.

Unfortunately, the "click and it transfers you to the footnote" feature disappeared when I copied and pasted.

So, while this does not help with all of your footnote issues, it may help with some.

*(OpenOffice or LibreOffice, I forget which one - open source, no charge to download them)

Steven Lester said...

Rock, what happened to your face and writing style. It's like you've become somebody else! Now I don't know who to thank.

Steven Lester said...

I can remember my hero Carl Sagan almost laughing at Velikovsky on his show "Cosmos". I read Velikovsky's first book when I was in my teens, but even then I remained unconvinced. How did Saturn get flung out so far away from the sun, I asked, or how did Venus find its way between Mercury and us and how did the planets' individual gravitational pulls not combine to pull them all together via a huge cosmic collision? Or how did Saturn, so much larger than the other planets combined, not attract all of the three other planets into its own atmosphere and destruction, or at least into more mere moons to rotate around it. None of it made any sense. Anyway, he was there. Russians are weird.

LDS Anarchist said...

Anthony Larson is a contributor of the LDS Anarchy blog. Just click the "Articles by AEL" link to see all of his posts.

LDSDPer said...

I have only read about 20% of this blog essay--

and I will finish it, but I am needing to take time to process it.

My father was a scientist, and I rebelled against science in much the same way that many of the sons/daughters of bishops rebel against the church--LOL!

That said, I really loved and admired my father and had a pretty great relationship with him, but I got tired of empiricism. The empirical theory is not perfect; there are no perfect theories. My father was willing to admit that, but he did tend to 'push' science a bit hard.

I did enjoy doing observational studies with him, however, and I was his only child who would accompany him on various kinds of studies. Parts of it I found fascinating; other things I found tedious.

But, then, he never really enjoyed reading or writing poetry as much as I do/have done, though he was a good writer of other forms.

I miss him terribly, and I wish I could talk to him right now. He had some very 'difficult' experiences as an LDS scientist; he was once picketed at one college where he taught by a Christian group, because he taught evolution. He taught it simply as a theory, and he was careful about that, and he would hold up the Bible (it would have been laughable if he'd help up the Book of Mormon, a book he read diligently and really loved) and say, "I believe God created the heavens and the earth; I don't know how, and this book doesn't say how, but I do believe that there is a Creator."

Didn't matter; dad got picketed and persecuted. At one point he was quite depressed about it.

Before he died he decided that much of the work he had done was useless, and he ended up burying it--
he told me about the corruption in the scientific community, about the political influences, the corporate influences, the prejudices and favoritism and narrow-mindedness, and all of it sickened him.

Towards the end of the life his only reading interest was the Book of Mormon--

How I would love to discuss this all with him now. I think it was a privilege to be raised by him; one of the things he taught me was the universality of 'man'--and the universality of truth--
I know he admired Widtsoe and Talmage, etc.
I owe much of my desire/ability to look at things from as many sides as possible to him--

Anyway, I have family members who have read Velikovsky; my husband has read him; we have several books. I find his work fascinating, but I admit I haven't focused as much on it as my husband has.

I will finish this; I appreciate this blog essay.

Mike said...

So this would explain why the Lord called David the apple of his eye. In context that would be the red planet Mars and God is calling David the warrior God of Israel. Pretty cool :)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

An apt comparison, Shawn, and one I had not thought of.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

This was one of the themes of James Hogan's book, "Kicking the Sacred Cow," that politics, money, and ideology have wormed their way into the scientific community to an astonishing degree. We simply cannot trust anyone to tell us the full truth.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

There is absolutely no evidence that the prophet ever taught the nonsense about Quakers on the moon. That was a story told by Oliver Huntington decades after the Prophet's death when Huntington was an old man. At the time Joseph Smith was still living, Oliver was a young boy living in Nauvoo with his parents.

Huntington was famous for repeating this story the prophet told him. At the time, the London Sun was publishing a series of articles reporting that scientists had built a giant telescope capable of seeing cities on the moon, and reporting what they could see about the inhabitants. According to the story, the inhabitants of the moon were about four feet tall (this may be the source of the legends about "little moon men" and telling of their dress and activities. The Sun sold a lot of papers as each day the astronomers reported more and more information about the inhabitants of the moon, their mode of dress, how they occupied their time, etc.

American papers picked up the story, and it was quite the topic of conversation in the states until the Sun revealed it all as a hoax. These stories would have been known about Nauvoo.

It's possible that little Oliver Huntington asked Joseph Smith about the moon men and Smith gave him a teasing reply which Huntington carried into adulthood without ever knowing the prophet had been toying with him. At any rate, no one other than Oliver Huntington ever reported a similar statement from Joseph Smith, and we certainly don't have a revelation about it, so I wouldn't consider that silliness anymore reliable than someone reported that as a child Joseph Smith told him that babies grow in cabbage patches and are then picked up in the beaks of storks and delivered down the chimney.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks, Toni. I may try that again in a future post. If I have the patience.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yeah, I finally gave in and changed the picture to one that looks more like me today. As for what you mean by my writing style, what happened -did it get worse?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I should have remembered that, and included the links in my post! Thanks for the reminder.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

And Steven, I think some of your questions may have been addressed on those LDS Anarchy posts. If not, try for more recent discoveries.

Spektator said...

Fascinating topic. Science, as I see it, works on the premise that the conditions we experience now have always been there. The scientific theory would fall apart if we could not rely on the constancy of the environment. I found the Talbott information very interesting. Dang, I now have six more books on my reading list.


Me from Cali said...

Yes--accurate reply. Actually, I did know most of this at one time, but forgot about the details as for how much was LDS apologetic obfuscation, or whether the account is, in fact, totally unreliable, hence, untenable to consider. So, thanks for the refresher! Having said this, though, I can still imagine JS saying something like this and being serious about it, especially when you consider the tenable accounts with regard to the Kinderhook plates, the remains of the white Nephite (Zelph--??), etc.

Also, I grew up hearing a lot of stuff like this (re: your article)--theories about what will transpire in the ‘last days’, about Celestial beings living in the Sun, etc,-- stuff other than the ‘white horse prophecies’. In fact, I remember one particular time, when I was a boy, listening to my father (who what ‘up there’ in the church), a mission president and some other LDS church authority talking about stuff like this. It fascinated me, even at that young(er) age, and no doubt has left its mark on me, especially when I’m driving and looking at road cuts with all of the various strata and contortions in the rocks. Sure, I wonder--an event over a very brief period of time, or a process over millions of years? And, how did this six inch ‘petrified’, intact clam (shell) get here at the top of this mini-mountain I’m hiking on, and how old is it, really? And things like this.

However, my inner sense of intellect (for what little I do have!), notwithstanding all of the LDS esoteric biases imprinted on my brain when I was a boy, still leads me to preclude that a lot of this is ‘quackery, pseudo-science’ and without any real scientific merit. In other words, I AM NOT a proponent of the ‘six’ or ‘ten thousand year earth’ and stuff like that. I strongly feel that if human beings don’t end up self-annihilating in nuclear war, or because of environmental disregard, then everything is just going to ‘carry on’ naturally in a non-religious way for a long, long time. Yes, there may be another ice age, or a catastrophic meteor striking the earth, but all of the eschatological proclamations by many of the world’s religions are just that, i.e., ‘proclamations’, of which the details and ‘ways and means’ are nothing but ‘I am the knower of arcane knowledge that God revealed to me, so pay heed TO ME’, dogmatic or even delusional thinking, or similar.

Ljn aka Toni said...

I think he's referring to the fact that it is more of a science-related post than a "current Mormonism" post.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

On the topic of the weird and unusual, on my mission a fellow missionary told me that Nibley had said the Sahara Desert was once a forest. I've never come across that in Nibley's writings (it would take a lifetime to read everything Nibley wrote), but I found it interesting to learn one day that petrified trees have been found beneath the sand, as well as evidence of lakes and rivers.

Don't ask me for details. I don't feel like looking it up right now, but it's food for thought, grounds for additional research.

Fusion said...

Hi Rock,

This was an exciting one to read, and so different! Loved every moment. I also love the fact that early Mormonism has got so much truth and knowledge to offer, when Joseph Smith was at the helm. After the Kirtland apostasy, outlined in amazing detail by Onewhoiswatching on his blogs (if you haven't read his blogs, you are honestly missing out on some of the best researched and uniquely thought-provoking material about Mormonism from top to bottom I have come across)...I believe the church was never the same again- we have been in total apostasy since we failed to redeem Zion...and not one of us on the earth has the 'highest Priesthood' ordained after the order of the Son of God by His voice out of heaven directly as stated in-

Today, as a result, we have an insipid bunch of corporate men at the top who thus do nothing but permit their minions (the GA's) to encourage idol worship of them without so much as a single revelatory line from the Lord. Just one speculation after the other- 'has Monson or ______(insert 'favourite' GA here) seen the Lord?! Of course he has! It's sacred so he doesn't talk about it!' Utter NONSENSE. We lost that ability for having a prophet and seer at the head, generations ago- and the lack of a single spiritual fruit shows it sadly. And that's why we don't get stuff like this after Joseph's death. What I would have given to hear Joseph expound on this stuff, Rock! Thanks so much for moving me into another time and dimension for the few moments I read this!
Love to you and Connie as always

Gary Hunt said...


I really enjoyed the article. Have you heard of the book "Joseph Smith as Scientist" by John A. Widtsoe? It is available to read online at

Here is an excerpt from the Preface:

"This volume is based on the conviction that there is no real difference between science and religion. The great, fundamental laws of the Universe are foundation stones in religion as well as in science. The principle that matter is indestructible belongs as much to theology as to geology. The theology which rests upon the few basic laws of nature is unshakable; and the great theology of the future will be such a one."

In my science classes as a teenager, I was taught what was considered scientific truths. As time went on, some of these "scientific truths" were abandoned and replaced with new ones. As the saying goes, "the only constant in the universe is change." Only truth stands the test of time.

This book covers what Joseph Smith taught as universal truths, many of which were unknown by science in his day. In fact Joseph contradicted what the current scientists of the day were saying. Later, scientists came up with some of the same ideas which Joseph taught and are still considered valid scientific laws today.

zo-ma-rah said...

I agree there is little evidence that Joseph Smith actually said those things. However I don't find the idea complete "silliness." The sheer coincidences involving the moon(size, shape, composition, etc.) have led some to theorize that the moon was either constructed, or placed into orbit around the earth. For those of use who accept the idea of advanced extraterrestrial life, or some other advanced human for; it is not that far out to theorize that the moon could be inhabited by beings, probably in underground bases. Now if that is a possibility, then is it not also possible that those beings are over six feet tall; have life spans of approx. a thousand years; and wear clothing/uniforms that may have, in some sense, resembled that of Quakers.

I think most people look at it and think, Quakers living on the surface of the Moon, BAH! Joseph Smith was a ding dong. Obviously Quakers couldn't have traveled to the moon, nor would they survive without space suits. I think that oversimplifies what is being spoken of.

Also when you consider this, the idea of "the Watchers" from the Book of Enoch, take on a new meaning.

Rob said...

So, "Me from Cali," you might find a book called "A brief history of everything" very interesting. This book is a history of "crucial questions" in science. Very much mainstream. Written by a guy who clearly believes what mainstream science says. In it is a very interesting and relatively detailed history of various scientific theories that answer questions such as "how old is the earth?" and "where did we come from?" Though clearly not the intention of the author, I thoroughly enjoyed the seemingly limitless amount of faith the scientific community puts into some theories, even to the extent of excluding others, as Rock also seems to have picked up on from independent sources. As a scientist, I was shocked to hear the backstory about, for instance, the age of the earth and geological theory. Please check it out from your local library. It could be life changing.

What we are told is the gospel truth (no pun intended) by scientists turns out to be very unsure indeed if viewed through the scientific method.

I've had quite the opposite experience with the words of Joseph Smith. As I have dug deeper and lived the gospel to a greater degree in my life, I've only found affirmation and not more doubt. Discounting the unaffirmed sources, of which there are many, I have found that many of the prophecies of Joseph Smith have been fulfilled, and I expect many more to be at a future date.

Rob said...

Thanks, Rock. Another good one. Have you ever read Chaos by Glick? It's a very good read. It's written well for non-experts like me. At any rate, as soon as one understands what a complex system is (nutshell: its a cyclical process that never repeats itself and therefore cannot be predicted) you'll never look at things like the stock market or planetary paths the same again.

While reading it, I had an experience similar to those you outline here. I couldn't help feeling like I was reading a sermon by Joseph Smith (note: complexity theory is mainstream accepted science). In particular I was thinking about the idea of galactic shuffling, and the earth being hurled out of its orbit.

Basically, most folks think the earth flies around the sun in an exact, replicated orbit. Not so. It traces almost the same path, but no two rounds are the same. This is a complex system. We can simulate such systems using mathematical equations to graph each orbit, and surprisingly, it is just as likely that the next "orbit" will fling us right out of the solar system as it is that we will have another orbit similar to all the previous ones. I recommend the book.

LDSDPer said...

the Book of Mormon speaks of the righteous being spared by fire--

Nephi 1:22--

there are also verses in the D&C that speak of this--

2 Nephi 30--

also . . .

Peshtigo, Wisconsin--
those who survived spent hours in the river--

LDSDPer said...

I might add that Chicago started as a town run by 'hooligans'--

(*using the term gently*)--

and the lumber industry was one of the most corrupt, where human life was of little importance to the barons.

No, the barons didn't die in the fire up north--

so it does make *one* wonder--

for those of *us* who don't believe that Lincoln saved liberty--

was it retribution on the 'north'?

I don't know; I just wonder--

LDSDPer said...

Much of its product was shipped to Chicago as the major owner of the Peshtigo Company was William Ogden who had been Chicago’s first Mayor.

Another interesting little bit of information, above--

the connection between Peshtigo and Chicago--

Perhaps someday the truth will be known--

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Sounds interesting, Rob. Thanks for the suggestion.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Interesting; I had not know there was such a connection between Peshtigo and Chicago.

By the way, Chicago is STILL run by hooligans.

LDSDPer said...

maybe I'm carrying it too far here, but I also find it intriguing that both towns are 'on' Lake Michigan--

Peshtigo is not on the shores of the lake, but it is close enough that the fire jumped Green Bay and hit part of the penninsula (now known as Door County)--

Why right next to Lake Michigan? Hmmm--

a person could let his/her imagination run wild with that one--

who knows what the connection is; I am sure *we* will at some point, but in the meantime, Peshtigo was really a bigger fire and destroyed more land/lives, but, because it was never built up again to be much more than a north woods small community, and Chicago became a large city, Chicago's fire is now more 'in'famous--

Evil as the lumber barons were, many of the settlers were humble, hard-working people, so it's hard to understand--
but then, if people are righteous, death is sweet to them?

The area around Peshtigo now is a huge forest; the trees have regrown, and they are very large--

it's really a very beautiful place--

LDSDPer said...

done; I read it--


I won't say anything more about Peshtigo; I really got off on that one--but I've had a window opened in my mind, and we'll see what kind of 'sunlight' comes in--

Thanks for this, Rock; my husband is excited about it and reading it also--

All of this makes me want very much to discover Joseph Smith--

I don't use the word rediscover, because I don't think I ever knew him.

I know that one of my ancestors sat on his knee as a small child, and he loved Joseph Smith the rest of his life; that is significant--

there was definitely something about the man--

*off to learn more*

weston krogstadt said...

In case you're wondering whether Rocky knows what he's talking about or not, I've got a little hint for ya: Rocky is more full of crap than a Christmas turkey.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Always a pleasure to have you return and advance the dialogue, Weston.

Jonathan Blake said...

Heresy is not correctness. We all love a good underdog, but let's not allow that to pull us into the murky realm of conspiracy theories that require a systemic, worldwide effort to keep the truth down. You've put yourself in the company of 911-truthers, UFO enthusiasts, and the folks who believe there are secret orgies in Mormon temples.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

If you thought I would be insulted by your grouping me with those who seek the truth regarding what happened on 9-11, Jonathan, you are mistaken. I am indeed quite interested in learning all the facts about what happened that day, as I would think all Americans would be. I fail to see the insult in having someone call me a "Truther." I wear the label of Truth Seeker proudly.

Your trite dismissal of those who advocate for honest inquiry by lumping us in a class with UFO enthusiasts and temple orgies only makes me wonder why you forgot to mention Bigfoot and Elvis sightings. You must forgive my tone, but I'm getting older and find I have little patience these days for demonstrable fools such as yourself.

As for your questioning the correctness of Velikovsky's thesis, you're about 60 years too late with the brand of smarm you exhibit. I would refer you to Laird Scranton's "The Velikovsky Heresies" published just last year, which contains a concise overview of the mountains of scientific discoveries that have come to validate Velikovsky's original thesis.

You seem unaware that astronomical discoveries were already vindicating Velikovsky not a decade after his first book was published, as evidenced by this excerpt from a letter to Velikovsky written by Harry Hammond Hess, then chairman of the Space Board of the National Academy of Science:

"You have after all predicted that Jupiter would be a source of radio noise, that Venus would have a high surface temperature, that the sun and bodies of the solar system would have large electrical charges and several other such predictions. Some of these predictions were said to be impossible when you made them. All of them were predicted long before proof that they were correct came to hand."

Hess's letter was written in 1963, before the moon landing, before Voyager, before satellites and space probes and the Hubble telescope all provided information that vindicated Velikovsky and would have left egg on the faces of his critics were they still alive when those discoveries came to light. And that's just in the area of astronomy. Leave aside geology and classical history for the moment.

Yet here you appear, Jonathan, with your smug assertion that, among other things, institutions do not conspire; and that those who hold legitimate concerns about the clear suppression of truth are deserving of only snark and name calling. You have entered an arena where adults are trying to have an intelligent conversation, Jonathan, but you show up armed only with the taunts of a gradeschooler.

You want to impress me? Try forming an intelligent counter-argument. Try doing a little research about the topic under discussion. Try reading a book or two.

Then come back here and join the grownups.

Gary Hunt said...

Mr. Blake:

Heresy means "dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice". It is a neutral term which means that the opinions held by a heretic, may or may not be correct. One example of a heretic would be Joseph Smith.

Apparently you are unaware of what the Church Committee (back in the mid 1970's) uncovered as a result of truths exposed during the Watergate trial. They uncovered many illegal and secret activities,"conspiracies", that had been, and were being committed by the CIA and FBI against foreign governments and leaders as well as US citizens. These conspiracies resulted in ruined reputations, injury, and death of many innocent people.

Also, you seem to not be aware that Joseph Smith was a "conspiracy theorist". All you have to do is read the Book of Mormon (secret combinations) and Doctrine and Covenants, see example below.

Doctrine and Covenants 89:4

4. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

The truth comes out over time. Some conspiracy theories prove to be true (conspiracy facts) and some false. Here's a short list of conspiracy theories which have been proven to be true:

Cointelpro, Paperclip, Artichoke, MKUltra, Operation Northwoods, Operation Mockingbird, and the Tuskegee Experiments.

When I was younger there were times I thought some people were "crazy, tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists." I thought, "our government wouldn't do those kind of things to us." Like I said before, the truth will eventually come out. Over time I learned that our government has done and probably will continue to do terrible things.

Jonathan Blake said...

There's no need to engage in ad hominem. I've enjoyed much of what you've had to say on this blog about Mormonism. I didn't mean to insult you. This post seems an odd juxtaposition with your other writings, and I am only pointing out that it uses the tactics common to all conspiracy theories.

Certainly there are conspiracies in our world, but when I speak about "conspiracy theories" I mean a special kind of meme that preys on our desire to be in the know, the ones with inside knowledge, the Davids fighting the corrupt global Goliaths. They have a form of skepticism but deny its basic methods.

For a theory to be scientific, it must be falsifiable. There must be some kind of evidence that would show it false. I assume that you have read Sagan's rebuttal of Velikovsky and are familiar with the issues brought up by critics and aren't persuaded, so this is my question: what kind of evidence would convince you that Velikovsky was wrong?


LDSDPer said...

@Jonathan Blake--

would you prove this: "For a theory to be scientific, it must be falsifiable."

Show the proof for that and the basis for the reasoning. "There must be some kind of evidence that would show it false."?

Why? Prove that.

If there is evidence to show that something is false, then it IS false, and it doesn't even need to be proven as being correct.

Maybe it's been too many years since I took a science course, but this sounds like nonsense to me.

You sound like the person who, on another Mormon blog, said that it didn't mean anything that Joseph Smith's DNA had not been found in any but the descendants of Emma, that it had to be proven that Joseph Smith had not actually fathered children with any other woman.

And, yet, that person who responded in that way to me, doesn't realize that the only way that can be 'proven' (in this time phase) is that there are no DNA existing for any but Emma's children.

"I mean a special kind of meme that preys on our desire to be in the know, the ones with inside knowledge, the Davids fighting the corrupt global Goliaths."

That is, again, nonsense. *You* have no idea what anyone is thinking when he/she decides to question something that is being taken as truth in modern world culture. How can you know that there is any kind of 'meme' that 'preys' on anyone else's mind?

Now it has become popular to laugh at anyone who questions anything--

or to laugh at anyone who believes that someone who has been laughed at in the past might have some correct ideas?

I don't accept your premises, whether anyone else on here does or not--

"tactics common to all conspiracy theories"--



"They have a form of skepticism but deny its basic methods."--

Now that is going too far; this is becoming just a cute game--

I enjoyed this post of Rock's immensely and see no reason why it is an 'odd juxtaposition'--

I think you are throwing out words, thinking that you are being sophisticated, but it's not sophistication; it's just throwing out words.


I never read that Rock was saying, "this is the truth; this is the entire truth; there is nothing questionable about this."

But it's silly to present an idea that *you* think is reasonable and then say, "this is why this can't be true".

That's just playing games with ideas, and the fact is that ideas are powerful and should not be played with. If this is nothing but a game to you, then what you say can't be taken seriously.

You work from a premise that anyone who believes there are any conspiracies--

is flawed for that reason alone. That is nonsense.

When you find out that there have been conspiracies, I hope you have someone nearby who never doubted that there have been intrigues since the dawn of time--

to hold you up.

LDSDPer said...

or I should say--

from the above--

if there is evidence that something is false, it could at least be false, and then why would anyone want to believe it to be anything but false?

I have become aware recently of a particular personality type which deals in (whether deliberately, from training, or naturally)--

confusion. I have been running into people here and there who enjoy 'mind wars'--

and one of the major tools (JB used the word 'tactic') used is to disseminate disinformation--

and things that aren't reasonable, but sound 'intelligent'--

I've been warned about this behavior by others who have come up against this behavior--

and it is astounding when a person first encounters it--

it's hard to believe that people would deliberately spout nonsense; I mean, why?

And yet it is happening everywhere.

Some people call it 'information war'--

others call it misinformation; I am just now discovering it--

some people will 'babble' nonsense just to get a reaction--

I'm not saying that JB is doing this, but I wonder--

because the things you say are based upon a premise that anyone who questions anything 'official' is to be distrusted and ridiculed.

That was a tag for me.

Jonathan Blake said...

To clarify, when I say that something must be falsifiable I mean only that there must be some kind of evidence that could prove it false if we could provide that evidence. For example, the law of gravity is falsifiable because if we dropped a pencil and it hovered exactly where we left it, that would show that the law of gravity is false. In other words, there is a test to show whether or not the law of gravity is true.

Of course the pencil will always drop (here on Earth anyway). That's why we accept that the law of gravity is true. And yet it is falsifiable.

Carl Sagan gave a great explanation of falsifiability.

With that understanding, should we start again? Virtually all conspiracy theories are not falsifiable. Any evidence provided to prove the theory false is argued away, often as further evidence of the conspiracy. Someone confesses to making crop circles? They must be an agent of the government trying to suppress the truth about extraterrestrial visitors.

So my question is what evidence (if we could provide this evidence) would convince you that Velikovsky's ideas were false?

Anonymous said...

Paul said, to 'prove all things', and sometimes that means to prove things by the Holy Spirit, which will tell us the 'truth' of any & all things, IF we are righteous enough to possess that Spirit.

And that's a big IF. For most people think they have the Spirit, but few can 'prove' it by their righteous actions.

Thus, even conspiracy theories are falsifiable, if someone really has the Spirit & can see things as they really are.

Some things are true despite no physical 'evidence' to prove it, only those with the Spirit will receive such 'proof' & know the truth.

Jonathan Blake said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that there is no tangible evidence that Velikovsky's ideas are true? Or are you saying that we can only know the truth about conspiracy theories through the Spirit?

LDSDPer said...

When you speak of 'conspiracy theories' you are grouping together every possible idea that anyone might have that explains phenomena that are not immediately understood?

Questioning the official position on anything (such as 9/11) is just that--

I have never offered a counter explanation (that I would dare to prove to anyone, because I cannot prove anything) for what happened on 9/11; I have some ideas; there are things I have thought about--

I just don't accept the 'official' explanation.

What really bothers me, on both an emotional/psychological/social and an intellectual level, is the idea that anyone who questions anything that most people accept--

is instantly classified as a 'conspiracy theorist'--

It has never occurred to me to link crop circles with 'extraterrestrial visitors', whoever and whatever some may think those would be or could be. I haven't given serious thought to whether or not there might be 'extraterrestrial visitors', but I have given much serious thought to what was behind 9/11. I can't possibly come up with answers, but I can come up with questions, and I have them and express them. And that makes me laughable?

What I am sensing is a classification of anyone who questions anything as ridiculous.

Ridiculing anyone who questions anything, even if the questioner can provide no proof of an alternative explanation--

isn't reasonable either.

I know that Rock doesn't need to be defended, and I wasn't trying to 'defend' him. I just get hot under the collar (I admit) when anyone uses the term "conspiracy theorist" or "conspiracy theories" and then begins laughing.

You say you don't deny that there are conspiracies--

and yet . . . you have obviously joined an ideological movement that focuses on discrediting anyone who questions anything that is politically correct or mainstream.

I didn't really think very much of Carl Sagan, so I'm not motivated to read what he had to say. I don't discredit him, because he was an agnostic, either; I just haven't ever been very impressed with him.

Brilliant, famous people generally don't interest me. If I had met him personally and spoken with him, I might have felt differently about it.

Falsifiability--hmmm. Sounds pretty impressive. It's an idea, isn't it? It may or may not have merit in the long run, but it sounds intellectually faddish.

to anonymous at 12:41; that's good; proving all things--
Paul has been so vilified--poor man. But I do believe it is true that *we* can know the truth (or falseness) of all things--

there is so much to know.

And there is such a powerful need to question. Always to question.

When I meet God/Jesus Christ, I really don't think He is going to ask me how many things I made falsifiable; I think He might ask me how many questions I asked, and were they honest questions.

I don't know--

He might just ask me how I treated others, so I apologize if I have stepped on any toes in the middle of my indignation over being considered a 'conspiracy theorist' for asking questions.

LDSDPer said...

@Gary Hunt--

Thank you.

Sometimes people end up living 'inside' a conspiracy, and then it becomes all too apparent that there are such things and that they are conceived in evil, which makes the scriptural term, "evil and conspiring men" even more poignant.

Those who laugh at such things just haven't experienced that, yet.

Jonathan Blake said...

Asking questions is great! I would never criticize anyone for asking questions. When I talk about conspiracy theories, I'm not talking about simply questioning the generally accepted explanation. Conspiracy theorists go beyond questions to make assertions.

For example, this post asserts that the scientific community is suppressing Velikovsky's ideas because he threatened their cherished theories rather than for any valid scientific reason. That's an assertion that seems falsifiable to me. I'm sure there's a way that we could test whether or not his ideas have a scientific basis. In order for them to be science, they must be falsifiable. (BTW, if you'd rather not read what Sagan said, there's always Wikipedia to explain falsifiability.)

But I'm interested to hear what test and evidence you would accept to show Velikovsky's ideas are false. Last time I checked, nothing in the Gospel requires someone to accept Velikovsky's hypotheses, so it would be OK for a follower of Christ to reject them.

So let's ask a question. What would it take to show Velikowsky's ideas are false?

Alan Rock Waterman said...


Your primary beef appears to be "this post asserts that the scientific community is suppressing Velikovsky's ideas because he threatened their cherished theories rather than for any valid scientific reason."

You may recall I provided sources to back up that assertion. James Hogan (among others) documents the vigorous attempts to suppress Velikovsky's ideas from being heard by the scientific community in his book "Kicking the Sacred Cow." The book is available at many public libraries. I provided page numbers in my cite. If you can read that section and come away with any other conclusion than that some gatekeepers in the scientific community engaged in bald and vigorous cheating in order to suppress Velikovsky from getting a fair hearing, I am interested in hearing your reasons.

It was because Velikovsky was a man with credentials that he was attacked. Had he been some random unknown publishing a book of oddities he would have been ignored. As it was, people's very jobs and positions and status were threatened by him if he were given a wide hearing among his peers. As I wrote above, those academics who read the book tended, by and large, to find merit in his theories. Those with the loudest voices turned out not to be familiar with his work, but were content to be told by others what they should think and what they should say.

The biggest stumbling block among his critics was that astronomers were unfamiliar with Assyrian and Babylonian clay tablets, and experts in those areas were not experts in astronomy or geology. What motivated them all was that Velikovsky had stepped on their toes, and they reacted with childish petulance. They did not know how to evaluate the findings of one schooled in a multitude of disciplines, so instead they tried to persuade others that he was not worth a look. It should have been a simple thing to falsify his thesis, yet no attempt was made to do so. Easier to dismiss than evaluate.

And as for your insistence on falsifiability, Velikovsky did not claim to have "proven" anything; he wrote an academic treatise based on available evidence. It was the review in Harper's that labeled it "scientific." Velkovsky was not obligated to scientifically "prove" or disprove anything; He did not claim to be a laboratory scientist. He merely said, in effect, "this is the observable evidence, and this is where that I see that evidence tends to lead." It was the responsibility of his critics to have taken it from there and and demonstrated the falsity of his thesis through scientific means. They did not.

Whatever one wishes to consider "proof" is subjective when it comes to the workings of the universe of course, but it is undeniable that the more time goes by, the more scientific discoveries appear to vindicate Velikovsky's thesis. I prefer that word "vindicate" over "prove" because I don't think any of us are capable of providing ultimate proof over the hows and whys of the universe. And if science has provided us with anything regarding Velikovsky's thesis, it is mountains of evidence providing vindication. But you do have to be willing to look at it. I provided sources for you, Jonathan. Why not try looking at both sides of the issue before arriving at your conclusions?

Alan Rock Waterman said...


As to your concerns over this piece being a departure for me, this blog is about Mormonism, more specifically, the pure and organic teachings as revealed through Joseph Smith.

Many heretofore puzzling statements of the prophet make better sense in light of the findings of Velikovsky, and for that reason I find all this intriguing, especially in light of the fact that, contrary to your uninformed biases, Velikovsky is looking more and more like a visionary every day. To me, this tends to confirm that Joseph Smith was a visionary too.

As Larson points out, many LDS scholars tended to avoid some of these more bizarre statements of Joseph Smith, such his statement that about the polar alignment of the planets in ancient times. As Velikovsky receives the serious attention he deserves, Joseph Smith's statements don't seem bizarre at all, but in fact assist in our understanding.

You seem interested only in sources that would confirm your biases. I prefer to search a little deeper. Example: Last year two books were published on Velikovsky. "The Psuedoscience Wars", which I am currently reading, does not strike me as an attempt to get at the facts, but is dismissive of any attempts at even-handed evaluation, not only of Velikovsky, but of anything the author considers "fringe."

The book does not attempt to refute or falsify Velikovsky's findings, but only to ridicule anyone who might be curious about them. The role of this book is to stop anyone who might have heard of Velikovsky from looking any further. It says, in effect, "Velikovsky is unquestionably crazy, so there's no need to investigate him further. Just read this book, and we'll tell you all you need to know."

"The Velikovsky Heresies," on the other hand, is an honest attempt at evaluating how much we have learned since 1950 in the areas of astronomy, ancient cuneiform tablets and scrolls, and geology. One book hopes the reader will assume that anyone who questions the status quo is a kook, the other provides actual information. Guess which book I believe takes a more "scientific" approach?

LDSDPer said...

I don't necessarily accept everything Wikipedia says either--

I feel (I got a B.A., not a B.S., but my father was a scientist)--

that you (JB) are trying to stick everything into a box.

I am not as interested in Velikovsky's works as my husband and one of my children are. I have listened to them talk about it, so I came on here and read Rock's blog on the topic.

What I am concerned about is the 'one-test' rule that you keep talking about: falsifiability.

And I am concerned about how you keep talking about 'conspiracy theorists'.

I have not met any of these people, so I wonder why you consider *them* such a danger.

This is why I keep responding to you. What sorts of things are you reading or studying that has made you believe that there is a group of people 'out there' who are a threat to truth--

who, somehow, assert 'conspiracy theories' as truth?

Because I have really tried to probe of the truth of political and social history now for several decades (almost 4)--

and I have never met anyone like this.

Do you read tabloids? I don't, so perhaps this is where you are seeing such people.

I have read essays from various people who document various occurrences. Whether or not anyone has the 'whole' truth is very debatable. I don't believe anyone can or does.

But the fact is that in the process of asking questions, sometimes a researcher finds out something that others don't want to think about or don't want to believe or don't want others to think about or believe--

and then an ideological battle ensues. Sometimes people write about their opinions.

The bottom line is, I believe--whether or not the person asking the questions and making an attempt to get answers--

is really being honest or not.

And, as I said in another post, there is an entire movement towards confusion.

I continue to seek the truth, and I refuse to worry about whether or not I am going to please Carl Sagan or anyone else--

in making things falsifiable.

I think I should stop now.

My husband has read several of Velikovsky's books, and he is a careful reader who does have a B.S.--(and beyond)

He read and enjoyed Rock's essay on Velikovsky and was really pleased with it.

But I know people who will not look into possible errors in the reporting of 'current events', who are discouraged, because they fear being labelled a 'conspiracy theorist'.

That is just wrong.

LDSDPer said...

Rock, I apologize in advance for taking this comment section into a place somewhat away from Velikovsky.

I just saw the 9/11 truth comment by JB, and I've been fomenting--(i.e., I am stirring up trouble inside myself)


So, JB, because you 'threw out' the ubiquitous (I've been hearing it all over the internet, especially on political blogs) and very vague couple of words: "conspiracy theorists"--

am I a conspiracy theorist, because I am willing to read a blog I run into on the internet like this?:

Or would *you* laugh at such a blog and discount it, because it is commenting on something that is happening within the government that is questionable?

I suspect that you might be younger--

I vividly remember the assassination of JFK--

and I realize that some of *us* who did not accept the official story (I didn't even as youth/young adult, and my parents didn't implant that in me; they were completely disconnected with JFK in every possible way and never even showed any remorse)--

and are still looking for answers (though we don't pretend to have found them)--

do *you* discount *us*?

Sorry, Rock. I really need to stop now. This has been bothering me for a long time--

this calling anyone a 'conspiracy theorist' with whom *one* does not agree--

And I realize that I, like Weston, am not really furthering the discussion--


My attempt will be never to say anything on this particular discussion again--

although . . . perhaps you should know that a close ward friend of ours (who came to visit, a couple) who is an engineer--

just took home one of my husband's Velikovsky books to read--

he had a hard time keeping the book closed as we finished our 'visit'--


He had only vaguely heard of Velikovsky--

and he had often wondered about Joseph Smith's prophecies, though he wasn't skeptical of them--

you've started some kind of movement here--


*chuckling aloud*

Anonymous said...

[Not my computer, so I'm posting anonymously, but this is Jonathan.]

Alan, thanks for the detailed reply though I'm still left wondering what it would take for you to reject Velikowsky's ideas. Is there no evidence that you would find convincing?

That's OK if there isn't any such evidence. It just indicates that for you this isn't a scientific question but rather a religious one. You seem interested in his ideas because they help to support things that Joseph Smith said rather than any inherent scientific merit of their own.

If that is the case, then my objection is that this post holds Velikowsky's ideas up against the current scientific consensus and says that the reason they are different is solely because of a conspiracy among the scientific community to suppress his ideas. It says that scientists didn't falsify his ideas through science. If the scientific community accepted his ideas, it would add another witness to Joseph Smith's prophetic call, but they don't, so you explain this through a conspiracy to avoid testing his claims.

The burden of proof is on the claimant. In this case Velikowsky. I could tell you that there is a purple unicorn in my pocket, and you would rightly demand proof. I can't simply say "Prove me wrong." I made the claim, so the burden of proof is mine.

So from my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong), Velikowsky found accounts in ancient documents and myths that he interpreted to mean that Venus was formed by ejection from Jupiter within the last few thousand years, that it had close encounters with the Earth causing local catastrophes, that afterwards it settled into its current stable orbit around the Sun, and that humanity has collectively repressed the memory of these events. Velikowsky is making a claim about physics, geology, and astronomy based on historical records and psychoanalysis.

That's not really science, is it?

But you say that Velikowsky wasn't doing science, so I'm assuming that we agree on this point. Velikowsky was making a hypothesis that needed to be tested by scientists more prepared to do so.

So we come back to the question of how to test his hypothesis. Velikowsky's ideas would seem to require us to overturn entire well settled branches of science. Kepler's laws of planetary motion, for example, would need to be thrown out despite how precisely they predict the motion of the planets (especially when refined by General Relativity). It would be OK to overturn current theories if the evidence warranted it. Science should not be driven by dogma but follow all available evidence.

To my knowledge, the only evidence that Velikowsky and his followers have offered in support of his ideas about the formation of Venus is what comes from mythology and ancient documents. Despite the unsupported assertion that there are "mountains of evidence" vindicating his ideas, this simply doesn't compare with the volumes of evidence for the current scientific theories. The scientific evidence for Velikowsky's hypothesis is insufficient to overturn science as settled as Kepler's laws.

But despite this, you accept his hypothesis which brings us back to the idea that for you maybe this idea isn't falsifiable. It's not a question of scientific evidence for you. It's about religious faith. I'd be OK with that if it was labelled correctly. You said that Velikowsky wasn't a laboratory scientist, that he wasn't trying to do science, so let's agree to stop calling his hypothesis science and stop denigrating the scientific community for rejecting an unscientific claim.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way. I meant only that the quality of reasoning behind this post didn't seem to match the others, not that this post was somehow off topic. -Jonathan

Anonymous said...

LDSDPer, falsifiability is only one quality of solid science. Among others, it is also based on repeatable observation and peer reviewed. I only focus on falsifiability here because it is one thing that conspiracy theories often lack.

I don't imagine a cabal of conspiracy theorists gathering to trick us by spreading conspiracy theories. That would mean I was spreading a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories. I don't think I could handle the irony. :D

No, we are the conspiracy theorists. We as human beings like conspiracy theories, so we gravitate towards them. They give a simple explanation for complex problems, and we like simplicity. They give us a way to justify our viewpoints that is impervious to refutation. They give us the satisfaction of being in the know. They give us juicy gossip. And so on. None of those reasons are rational.

Again, there are real conspiracies out there, but not everything is caused by conspiracy. Not all conspiracy theories are false, but it is a huge red flag that should warn us to dig deeper to see if we are fooling ourselves.

I'm not asking you to become a dogmatic follower of Sagan or Wikipedia or any other authority. I hope you just keep asking tough questions that may overturn a few apple carts, even your own. Becoming familiar with falsifiability will help you ask good questions.

- Jonathan

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Please don't apologize for the points you are making; I agree with you completely. I disdain those who, rather than engaging in rational argument, prefer to toss out the label "conspiracy theorists." It is intended to shut people up and end conversations. That tactic doesn't work anymore.

Our friend Jonathan is of the opinion that what he calls conspiracy theories are attractive to the uninformed because they somehow explain complicated events very simply and neatly. But that is not how it works.

The idea that Oswald was a lone nut acting on his own IS the simple answer, and because it was delivered to us tied up in a nice simple package, most of us bought into it at the time. But in time we learned the real evidence was broader and more complicated, so the "easy" answer was clearly not the right one. So called "conspiracy theorists" don't seek to have everything explained in a nice package; they follow the observable evidence in hopes of finding where it leads. Often ultimate truth is evasive, but one thing is usually glaringly obvious: the stuff we were spoon fed by the government and media turns out to be hogwash.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the JFK case displays another reason that conspiracy theories can be so attractive. The assassination of the president of the United States is so huge and traumatic. We'd rather not live in a world where one nut with a gun can cause so much trauma. It seems unbalanced and unfair. It can't be so easy.

So we start to devise reasons why it couldn't have just been one man. It must have been something as big and complex as a conspiracy at the highest levels that took down our beloved president.

Anyway, I'll confess my ignorance on the JFK case. I haven't looked into it much. I'm just saying that I would need some solid evidence for a conspiracy before I'd accept that as the most probable explanation.

But back to the matter of whether or not Velikowsky's ideas have scientific merit... :)

- Jonathan

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I believe our problem, Jonathan, is that you are of the opinion that the scientific community has completely rejected Velikovsky. This may have been at least partially true in 1950, but not today. Advancements in scientific discoveries, especially in the areas of astronomy, are causing many in the past 60 years to reassess beliefs that had long been taken for granted.

Many today are questioning the idea that the universe is gravity based in favor of the evidence that the universe is held together by electromagnetic forces rather than gravitational pull.

Advancements in knowledge are changing the paradigm. I have suggested to you sources from which you might investigate further, yet you write, "To my knowledge, the only evidence that Velikowsky and his followers have offered in support of his ideas about the formation of Venus is what comes from mythology and ancient documents." That is so simplistic and misinformed that I don't even know how to respond. Again, your use of "to my knowledge" is the giveaway. Why not try expanding your area of knowledge in this matter? The truth, as the saying goes, is out there. But you have to take the trouble to investigate.

I have found myself engaged in online discussions of this topic with people who feel they have a grasp of the subject yet are blissfully and arrogantly ignorant. It turns out their entire position was gleaned only from a review they read of "The Pseudoscience Wars." As I discussed earlier, that book had a definite bias, and did not begin to inform the reader of the vast amount of scientific evidence that would refute its own thesis. But for someone to attempt a discussion of these issues after only reading a bad review of a flawed book -well, you can understand why we were not able to come to any meeting of the minds. For any discussion on this topic to be fruitful, one must be a bit better informed, and a little less arrogant.

You also wonder where these mountains of evidence supporting Velikovsky can be found. I already told you. There are sufficient links in the piece I wrote to get you started. One does not have to read everything Velikovsky wrote in order to have a grasp of his thesis, but it does require one to do more than depend only on those who have dismissed him out of hand.

The website is a good starting place, where credible scientists and researchers with all the degrees you could wish for have gathered to discuss and rethink their previous assumptions. Yet they are humble enough to present evidence without trying to say "Here is ultimate truth. We now have it all figured out."

Einstein's secretary claims that Einstein was putting together a conference to examine the idea of the electric universe just weeks before his death. These discoveries threatened to upend Einstein's own theories, yet he apparently thought they were valid enough to look into.

I think where you are getting hung up is in thinking that no credible scientist has found anything in the work of Velikovsky that has merit. Not true.

I've said it before: search deeper. True skepticism requires being skeptical of those who would have you stop looking.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


You ask me what it would take to not believe Velikovsky, but your question assumes facts about me not in evidence. I rarely claim to "believe" much of anything. I spent much of my life claiming to "know" this or that beyond a shadow of a doubt, when in reality I did not really KNOW any such thing.

I would rather be thought of as a truth seeker than a truth knower. There is a saying I like which goes something like this: "Always encourage the man who is searching for the truth, but be wary of any man who claims to have found it."

I am inclined to accept certain things as having the ring of truth so long as the evidence points in their direction. When the evidence leads elsewhere, I try to follow where it goes. I don't claim very many absolute fixed beliefs, as it is my experience that those who allow themselves to be ruled by fixed beliefs tend not to be able to let ideas that may prove contrary to those fixed beliefs find purchase in their minds.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The premise that you present regarding JFK is a flawed one. I was ten years old at the time, and I can assure you that most Americans were quite satisfied with the lone assassin story. That was acceptable to the large majority of us. No one was looking for evidence of a larger conspiracy based on the idea that "it couldn't have been that easy." The easy explanation was the most palatable, and what we all found acceptable.

What caused Americans to begin questioning the official explanation was when more evidence became known that contradicted the official story. When more information came forward, more witnesses, more anomalies, the official story began to unravel.

It is quite simplistic of you to assume that the public was looking for something more complicated than the lone gunman theory, but that's not the explanation. That is the explanation I have heard before from those who cannot be bothered to evaluate the anomalies of the case.

The lone gunman theory was the kind of nice, neat package the public always wants. It worked for almost a decade. After that, reality began to intrude.

You admit to not knowing much about the JFK case, yet in the same sentence stating that you would need to see some solid evidence of conspiracy before accepting that possibility.

My goodness, man. I know I'm coming off rather hard on you, but for heaven's sake. Open your eyes. For you to admit to not even being aware of the facts in controversy regarding the JFK assassination tells me volumes about why this conversation is going nowhere.

Andrew T said...

Alan, I think you might enjoy Kuhn's, _The Structure of Scientific Revolutions_.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man. As someone with a graduate degree in electrical engineering who is currently studying stellar physics for fun, I would love to get into the details of why the electrical universe hypothesis was rejected, but there's only so much time in the day.

The dilemma I face with these kinds of discussions is how much material I should wade through to show that I have made a good faith effort to hear all of the argument, especially when everything that I've read so far is riddled with problems. However, in this case, my familiarity or lack thereof with the material doesn't affect the main question I was asking.

I was hoping to hear what evidence would make you reconsider Velikowsky's ideas, but haven't heard any. I share your skepticism about "knowledge". I don't claim to know anything either. All the same, you obviously believe his ideas worth considering. If your views about Velikowsky are not falsifiable, they are beyond the reach of logic and evidence.

In any case, I can see which way the wind is blowing. No hard feelings. Take 'er easy.

- Jonathan

Gary Hunt said...

Mr. Blake:

You wrote, "There's no need to engage in ad hominem."

Definition of AD HOMINEM

1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the
contentions made

You stated in reference to Rock and his article, "You've put yourself in the company of 911-truthers, UFO enthusiasts, and the folks who believe there are secret orgies in Mormon temples." It appears to me that you are the one initiating the ad hominem attacks.

It is obvious from your statements that you think that if a theory is not falsifiable that it is not only unscientific but that it is false. Karl Popper was the originator of the concept of "falsifiability." Here are a few statements from the Wikipedia article on falsifiability.

"Popper considered falsifiability a test of whether theories are scientific, not of whether propositions
that they contain or support are true."

"On the other hand, he strictly opposed the view that non-falsifiable statements are meaningless or
otherwise inherently bad, and noted that falsificationism does not imply it."

"Popper emphasized that there are meaningful theories that are not scientific,"

In researching some of the information Rock has provided I have found that real scientists are using legitimate scientific methods to test some of Velikovsky's theories and are finding that they better explain what is actually observed happening in the universe.

And by the way, I have also been doing research into what Sagan and others have said to refute what Velikovsky says. I am not too impressed with their arguments.

Gary Hunt said...

I believe I need to clarify my last paragraph. I should have worded it better. What I meant to say was that some of the arguments they made against Velikovsky's theories were based upon 30+ years old understandings and as I noted in my second to last paragraph new experiments appear to be falsifying some of their arguments.

I did not intend to make it sound like I was disrespecting Carl Sagan in any way. I do have a lot of respect for him even if I disagree with some of what he said. Some of those items are his respect for critical thinking, his anti-war stances and even though he challenged Velikovsky's theories, he criticized those who tried to suppress Velikovsky's ideas.

weston krogstadt said...


Anonymous said...

So, according to our theology, Satan rebelled because his plan to remove free agency from God's plan was rejected. He was removed from heaven along with those who agreed with him as a result. Our theology also teaches that an opposition in all things is necessary. First of all, why is Satan regarded as being the force behind all evil? Isn't evil just an inherent part of the universe or existence? What if Satan hadn't rebelled? What if no one had rebelled? How would there be opposition now if that weren't the case? If the plan were taught to us before Lucifer's rebellion, how were we taught and what sense would we have been able to make of it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rock

Just wanted to call you up on one point, you talked about searching for Mars with your telescope when you were young and being hardly able to make it out let alone tell that it was red.

This would have to do with where Mars was in its rotation around the sun in respect to the earth at the time you were looking for it. In the last few months Mars has been *clearly* visible to the naked eye as a reasonably bright red star, this is because the Earth has recently been relatively close to Mars. We had a bigger example of this in 2003 where Mars was one of the brightest lights in the night sky for a few months, and very red to the naked eye.

What I'm trying to get at here is that the fact that the ancient Greeks and Romans were able to identify it without telescopes says nothing to it ever having being closer to earth than its current orbit would allow or once appearing the size of the moon in our sky.

It was also straightforward to discover that it was a planet rather than a star, not by looking at it closely with optics but by tracing its movement across the sky in relation to the stars.

I don't know enough to refute or confirm the other musings in this piece but it definitely made for interesting reading.

Adam from Australia

Anonymous said...

Hi Rock,
I tried to email you but I got an errer message.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Try again, maybe you misspelled. After all, you did misspell "errer" above.

Or you can message me on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

Haha! yeah,I was really tired when I wrote that. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Two things I read don't add up:

1) Peter says after the flood, there was a new earth and new sky.

2) You say the Babylonians built the tower of Babel to get to Zion under the old sky, after the flood.

Which is it?

Anonymous said...

He gave it to you. Did you take the time to investigate before responding? has a boatload of evidence which makes it evident that Velikovsky wasn't just a bunch of smoke. Electrical scarring of planets for one supports him, which Stephen Smith discusses. Don Scott's work, along with Ralph Juergens, Kristian Birkeland who Birkeland currents are named after, and Anthony L. Peratt, Ph.D Life Fellow, IEEE, of Los Alamos National Laboratory all provide hard scientific evidence that Velikovsky was onto something important we continue to hold a blind eye toward. Most, especially the latter do not agree with all of his ideas as some of them either have no basis yet or have been proven wrong. This doesn't make others, the real meat of his proposal wrong. It's a heavy branch of science that is being overturned right now, but I can assure you my friend, it is being overturned.


Alan Rock Waterman said...

At or after the time of the flood the earth changed on its axis, (I don't recall how much it flipped) and the location of the stars in the sky were completely different. (There's scripture regarding the sky folding up like a scroll).

That does not mean that certain planets would never again orbit close to the earth. Saturn, Venus, and Mars were close to the earth AFTER the flood. Those are the ancient times recorded in the various cultures. I don't think we have much of anything to consult before the flood.

Australian internet service provider said...

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