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Ginenthal, Velikovsky and Carl Sagan

Pseudo- and Junkscience

This is a page about bad science. But what is bad science? Of course, every scientist (like everybody) may have a bad day sometimes, or may have a thesis, that sounds somehow funny. But in the most cases, he is able to show evidence for his point of view. He has to convince other people, mostly scientists. If he is not able to do so, his thesis will be rejected, it must be rejected. Like Alfred Wegener and his theory of continental drift. Of course, today we may say, that he was right, and he was able to give evidence for his theory. But his mechanisms for the moving continents was unknown. His theory was discussed and rejected. But as soon as a mechanism was discovered that was able to move whole continents, his thesis was `reborn´ as the theory of plate tectonics, which is now widely accepted by all geoscientists. The many predictions of this thesis were verified, all of them were confirmend by findings. But what has this to do with bad science? Junkscience has no evidence for its claims, junk scientists are construct their `evidence´ by misrepresenting scientific sources. A good example how this may be done is Immanuel Velikovsky and one of his followers, Charles Ginenthal.

But first here is a comment about Velikovskian catastrophism from Derek Ager, who calls himself a `new catastrophist´. This may show us something about this kind of `science´.

`The height of such idiocy is illustrated by the cult of Velikovsky, who postulated major collisions up into historic times. I was repeatedly urged to read his works by one of his adherents. Whilst giving a course of lectures in Amsterdam and Leiden and left in the evening with nothing to read, I chanced upon a copy of his works in a back-street bookshop. I will not encourage such pseudo-science by giving a reference. I will be presumptious enough, however, to quote my own subsequent letter to my correspondent about the book I had read:

I was frankly appalled. It was far worse than I had been led to suppose. I can assure you that 90 % of it is the most unmitigated nonsense. He does not present any geological data whatever to support his views. He merely cites very out-of-date authorities (some 18th century!) in a highly selective manner. it is rather like someone quoting medieval alchemists to disprove modern atomic theory. He puts together observations which have no possible connection with each other. He appears to have no concept whatever of the geological time-scale and associates things which happened tens of millions or even hundered of millions of years apart. He seems oblivious of the hundreds of thousands of successive fossiliferous horizons there are in the rocks of almost every part of the earth´s surface and even seems to be unaware of the normal mortality of living organisms. The idiocy of some of his dogmatic pronouncements is illustrated, for example, in the (alleged) transport of vast numbers of large vertebrates from the tropics to the arctic by a great wave that did not apparently carry with it a single marine organism.
I am so sorry if I appear to be neurotic about this, especially as Velikovsky seems to be on the side of the catastrophists, but I do not want to be associated in any way with such  nonsense´
Derek Ager (1993): The New Catastrophism, Cambridge University Press, pp179-180)

 In the 50´s Velikovsky proposed several near collisions of the Earth with other members of the solar system, especially Venus.  Venus, he said, was born from Jupiter and threatened the ancient people with a comet-like appearance. These catastrophes he took as the cause of several events that are descibed in myths and in the bible. From my point of view, his theory has severe problems with astrophysics and there are next to no evidence from the geological record, especially about such devastating catastrophes. Severel people wrote papers or books on this topic, supporting or contradicting the thesis of Velikovsky. In my links you will find related pages with both.
I was not really concerned about his ideas, but I had always a great interest in catastrophes. My first contact with Velikovsky´s thesis was in a book written by Carl Sagan, Broca´s Brain. In this book he told us about theories,  Velikovsky`s included. For a long time, this was the first and only contact with the theory of ancient catastrophes (in Germany, the ancient astronauts of von Daenicken are a little bit more popular). It was just this summer, when I saw a book about the dispute between Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky, written by Charles Ginenthal. The cover text told me:

While brilliantly defending Velikovsky´s work, Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky mercilessly dissects Sagan, the blatantly snide, dishonst and unprofesional `arguments´ and exposes the sordid and unscientific side of `scientific´ controversy
(By the way, reading this book, the `unscientific side´ took on new meaning for me). He said, he wants to give evidence why Velikovsky must be right and why Sagan and all his followers must be wrong. As I read a lot of Sagan`s works and always interested in catastrophism (but more in Ager´s way, see above), I was a little bit curious. But what a surprise ( well, not really a surprise, I expected this), everytime I had the chance to check any of the points Ginenthal mentioned in his book, I found him wrong.
Along of his mistakes is the proposal of magnetic field reversals in historic times. There on page 160 of his book he quotes Thomas McCreedy (in Krupp vs. Velikovsky, KronosVI, 3, p45) who quotes a paper by G.M Turner and R. Thompson, Earth and Planetary Science Letters Vol 42 pp. 412-426.:
Furthermore there is evidence of a magnetic field reversal for 3500 years ago. Thomas McCreedy reported in Turner and Thompson´s Earth and Planetary Science Letters, for 1979, that:

 "Other recent papers support the viewpoint. Turner and Thompson (1978), examining sediments from Loch Lomond, Scotland, reported a large magnetic declination swing in the middle of the first half of the first millennium BC. This is in very good agreement with similar findings at Lake Windermere, England (1971)"

I was happy to get a copy of the EPSL-paper and, what a surprise, Turner and Thompson never said anything about a magnetic reversal, instead, they proposed local, non global influence to the magnetic field around Loch Lomond, because their findings correlate with english, but not (!) with findings in America or Japan. This doesn´t sound like a global field reversal to me! The only changes described in this paper are a shifting field vector with a changing declination. So they propose local non-dipol sources dominating the secular changes of the magnetic field vector. I do not know, if Ginenthal ever read the Turner & Thompson paper or if he is only quoting McCreedy without knowing more about his references. But as he reproaches the scientific community for passing judgement on Velikovsky`s thesis without reading it, then he should be even more careful.

Later he wants us to know, how many craters there are on earth, created during the time period of the catastrophe. On page 183 Ginenthal tells us about oriented lakes like the Carolina Bays in the Carolinas ( North & South, and some in Georgia). First he quotes  R.F. Black and W.L. Barksdale, Oriented Lakes of northern Alaska, Journal of Geology, 57 (1949), pp. 105. In this paper, Black and Barksdale are describing oriented lakes in the arctic coastal plains of Alaska. I do not know, if there are more recent explanations about these lakes, but in this paper  meteoritic origin is discussed and rejected. The lakes appear only in the coastal plains and cover them completely, they do not show any crater wall and not all lakes show the same direction. For me, it looks like some permafrost soil pattern but not like meteorite impact structures.

The next quotation is taken from L.P.Killigrew and R.J. Gilkes, Nature Vol 247 (1974), p.454. This paper is about oriented lakes in south west Australia. These Playa lakes show two different directions and the long axis shows a good correlation with the direction of the wind in the special region. Even the direction of the lakes differs between the regions, near Moora it is 347° and in Corrigin, Hyden and Newdegate it is 33°. Killigrew and Gilkes propose a wind controlled origin of the lakes, because of the good correlation of the long axis with the direction of the wind. The maximal erosional force of the waves should be, if the angle between beach and wave is about 50°, minimal force when it is 0°. In respect to the unconsolidated sediments of the region, the erosional force of the waves should develop oriented lakes. Meteoritic origin is not considered in the paper.

The third quotation is a paper by G. Plafker, oriented lakes and lineaments of northeast Bolivia, Bull. Geol. Soc. America 75 (1964), pp. 503-522 . On page 185 of his book, Ginenthal informs us:

But what Plafker wants to show is how tectonic control can develop oriented lakes. There in the Beni-Basin are two main tectonic lineaments striking NW-SE and NE-SW. The shorelines of the 104 lakes with more than 1 km length still show the same direction and even some vegetational patterns, too. Some lakes are still showing both directions and have a square or rectangular shape. I still wonder, how a meteorite should do this! But in the whole paper no meteoritic origin is considered, the word meteorite is not even mentioned.

And Ginenthal accuses Carl Sagan of telling lies? And what does he do himself? He takes his references out of context and does not even care about the explanations the original papers give. He only uses the names of the authors and this may be the reason why people like Derek Ager (see above) are so angry about the Velikovskians.

Another point that makes it clear how Ginenthal works, is shown on pp. 195 of his book. There he wants to let us know, that ancient people have drawn pictures of animals known to be extinct long before the ancient cultures. He is quoting Velikovsky´s Earth in Upheaval , p. 87 where Velikovsky cites L. Frobenius and Douglas C. Fox Prehistoric Rock Pictures in Europe and Africa , Museum of Modern Art 1937, p 37. There Frobenius and Fox are describing rock paintings of egyptian subjects like gods, war chariots etc. Then Ginenthal tells us:

He informs us, that these animals should be extinct nearly 8000 years before these human cultures. But does he tell us which animals he is talking about? No! Why should he? It looks like Ginenthal has no idea about the geological time scale (see Ager above).

Another such proposed piece of evidence for a worldwide velikovskian catastrophe is loess. Ginenthal want to let us know that the loess deposits were laid down by a huge tidal wave. He denies that loess is a wind transported sediment, because it is not well as rounded as it should be if it is transported by wind. The grains would be rubbed agains each other or the surface.
Yes , it is true that loess grains are mostly not well rounded, but Ginenthal does not inform us, that the grainsize of the loess grains is too small to be well rounded. Loess is mainly out of quartzgrains (60%) and feldspar, clay (10-20%) and up to 40% carbonates. The grainsize is mostly 0,006 - 0,06 mm and therefore too small to get rounded during the transport, but this is exactly the grainsize one would expect to be transported by wind. A tidal wave would take also some bigger grainsizes and leave not so well sorted deposits. The bigger quartzgrains are well rounded. In europe, the biggest loess deposits are to be found leeward of hills and this is a clear evidence for wind transport. There is no marine fauna, very few mammal bones and still some land mollusces buried in the loess. I can´t see any hint of a tidal wave in the loess.

Among Ginenthals other evidences for the tidal waves are several fossil whales. But he is not able to tell us, to which whale species the bones belong. The only species he mentiones is Zeuglodon , a tertiary whale. But the tertiary is a long period in  earth history. Its beginning is the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and it ends with the beginning ice age, 2 million years ago. So the question for me is: When was the exact time the Zeuglodon lived? It lived in the older part of the tertiary, the paleogene, which ended 24 million years ago. This animal was not living at the time of the proposed velikovskian catastrophe and so it cannot be evidence for it. So this may be the problem for the other mentioned whale fossils, too. He does not tell us, to which species the bones belong, only that these are whale bones and there are possible glacial deposits nearby. That this may be no evidence, shows a finding near Hamburg. In 1984 and then again in 1989 several big bones were found in a claydeposit in a gravel pit in Gross Pampau / Hamburg (Germany). The bones belong to Praemegaptera pampauensis, a whale of the miocene aera, 24 - 5 million years ago. The clay lies beneath glacial deposits which contain several bones and fossils. These fossils have their origin in the clay, but the glacier and the meltwater of the ice took the fossils out of their original bedding. So it is quite possible in this place to find miocene fossils in pleistocene sediments. As long as Ginenthal is only collecting whale-bones without telling us more, I can´t take this as an evidence for his thesis. ( Another mistaken whale can be found at: The Whale of a Tale , which shows, how original references can be mistaken.)

On page 226 - 227, Ginenthal tells us about deep quakes on earth and on the Moon, which cannot occur, because the rock in depth over 60 kilometers (earth) and 200 km (moon) should be so hot that it became ductile. Ginenthal quotes an article of Cliff Frohlich, Scientific American, Vol 260, Jan 1989, p. 48 (Spektrum d. Wissenschaft, 3/1989, p. 94). He informs us:

For me it is a clear evidence, that Ginenthal has not read Frohlich´s article, because Frohlich gave an explanation for the deep quakes that is in conformity with the plate tectonic thesis. No recent catastrophe but the dynamic Earth is the reason of these quakes. They occur in special zones, called Wadati-Benioff-Zones, on destructive plate margins. These are the places where one crustal plate is subducted beneath another, cold crustal material dives into the hot mantle. The quakes occur in the cold crustal slab, not in the mantle. And because this diving crustal material is much colder than the surrounding mantle, it is not ductile. The hypocentres of the deep quakes dip away from near surface up to depths around 700 km. This is one of the major predictions of the plate tectonic theory! And in great depths, there are other mechanisms for quakes like phase transitions of minerals due to the enormous heat and pressure in the mantle. At the high pressure the mineral olivine will change into ringwoodite. Ringwoodite has a lesser volume than olivine and so the whole rock may shrink, if greater quantities of olivine undergo this phase transition.
  Another page about Ginenthal´s book can be found at Wayne Throop´s page

All the references about Ginenthal are taken from his book: Carl Sagan and Immanuel Velikovsky. New Falcon Publication, Tempe, Arizona, USA, 1995.

© 1998 Gunnar Ries  

  seit 23. April 1998

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