NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
February 14, 1950
Mr. H. B. McCurdy
SUBJECT: WORLDS IN COLLISION by Immanuel Velikovsky
My dear Mr. McCurdy:
Worlds in Collision is not a text on science and I am sure its author never intended it to be. It is not scientific fiction, it seems to me that it is more nearly fictional science and I am not saying this in any disparaging sense.
Velikovsky marshals an array of facts, a network of footnotes and a series of interlocked interpretations which are truly amazing. The reader, with three days at his disposal, for its perusal, is left quite dizzy.
I am impressed by the amount of research the author must have put into it, but men of science will not always be impressed scientifically by the presentation, for the scientific method is relegated to the side lines in the Velikovsky-treatment of much of the material.
I do not like the use of centrifugal force on page 7(incidentally there seems to be something missing after page 35).
Speculation about the chemical behavior of carbon and hydrogen gases on page 53, to produce naphtha or petroleum, is not convincing.
The liberty which is taken in tilting the earths axis, in slowing down the rate of rotation and even reversing the direction of rotation of the earth, is rather like scientific heterodoxy.
The fantastic battle in the sky described in Chapter 3, the details of this cosmic catastrophe and the magnetic forces which are assumed to come into play, are far fetched.
The running catch-as-catch-can fight between the Earth, Venus and Mars sounds unscientific. The application of quantum considerations and stationary orbits to macrocosmic events, seems most questionable.
But, on the other hand, men of science are a conservative group and have by no means always been right, and I am giving you my own reactions after an overdose of concentrated reading. More reflection on my part may after my mental picture, especially after I have had an opportunity to consult source material.
I have found the book interesting and provocatively stimulating. Scientifically trained men and women form a small percentage of the reading public, and I have addressed myself to the question of how the general public will react to Worlds in Collision.
It has ever been my experience that students, be they never so bored, will immediately come to attention when almost any subject from the field of Astronomy comes up for discussion. Worlds In Collision has a running start on that score alone, but on its own merits it cannot fail to appeal to the reader, whether he be a man of science or not. Perplexing questions of long standing are tackled and their explanations are daring and often breath-taking. A case in point is the suggested precipitation of carbohydrates in the form of manna to feed the Israelites, and incidentally, their enemies.
Velikovsky has written a challenging book, a book that will make people think and will spur them on to do more rending, if only they can have access to references so freely listed.
It is my opinion that there will be a good demand for Worlds in Collision. It is my sincere hope that my opinion turns out to be well founded.
To The Macmillan Company go my best wishes for success in its publication, and to you, sir, my thanks for giving me the opportunity to see it at his stage.
[signed] C. W. van der Merwe