The Readers Digest
June 27th, 1950
112 Central Park South
New York 19, N.Y.
Dear Professor McLaughlin:
I appreciate the long and thoughtful letter that you wrote me although I find some parts of it difficult to understand.
One part has to do with the pride you express in the pressure of scientists against the house of Macmillan to discontinue publishing the Velikovsky book. This procedure horrifies me; some of the details of which I have been told are witch hunting tactics. Is not this book burning by intellectuals? And isnt that a matter for shame rather than pride? This, above all in your letter, I cannot understand. . .
Again you state that my review applauds dishonesty. Do you consider that remark an example of objective scientific observation? To use your own words, that comment of yours is mere rubbish and a flagrant intellectual fraud. Because you know perfectly well that my review does not applaud dishonesty. . . . I mention it here only to point out that a serious discussion should be conducted in less extravagant and emotional terms.
You go on to say that scientists admit the limitations of their knowledge but are aware of which sections are certain, which are only probable and which extremely uncertain. That, I take it, is a statement much more sweeping and infallible than you can possibly have intended. All the tragic history of the self-sufficiency of experts in every field contradicts it. . . .
Another unscientific attitude on your part is indicated when you discuss the probability that I rose to the bait of scientific proof of the Bible. Here, my dear Professor, you indulge in mind reading. . . .
You are quite right in saying that you talk to me like a Dutch uncle and I am sure you will not deny me the privilege of talking back to you like an American uncle. Therefore I must point out to you that when you ask me to believe that Velikovskys science vitiates the Biblical miracles, you are very far from the truth. Let me remind you of your own remarks to beware of a man who claims to know everything. Arent you dangerously near to doing that at this point? There is nothing in Velikovskys theory that removes the miraculous intervention of God at just the right time, in full accord with the Biblical position; at least that is the point of view of some of the theologians with whom I discussed the matter.
I am sufficiently interested in what you say to take your letter to Dr. Velikovsky and hear what he has to say about it. It is well worth exploring but only so long as it can be done in a dignified atmosphere without the shrill note that I detect in the voices of some of his critics.
P.S. Is it true that this agitation among scientists originated with Professor Harlow Shapley? If so, I am bound to regard these hysterical attitudes and attempts at book-burnings in a light even more dubious.