C. Leroy Ellenberger

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Charles Leroy Ellenberger
Leroy atl.jpg
C. Leroy Ellenberger at Fernbank Museum, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2005.
Born 1942
Other names C. Leroy

Charles Leroy Ellenberger (born 1942, known as C. Leroy) is perhaps best known as a one-time advocate,[1] but now a critic of, controversial writer Immanuel Velikovsky and his works on catastrophism. He first read Worlds in Collision in August 1969 after discovering it while browsing in the B. Dalton's Bookstore in Crestwood, Missouri.[2] In 1979, he became a contributing editor (and later Senior Editor & Executive Secretary) to the Velikovsky-inspired Kronos journal,[3] and has contributed material to many other publications.[4] In 1980 he was selected by the editor of Astronomy magazine to debate James Oberg on Velikovsky.[5] His confidence in the validity of Velikovsky's ideas was shaken in January 1982 when Kronos sponsored his attendance at the semi-annual AAAS meeting in Washington, D.C., in order to distribute information on Velikovsky. In a wide-ranging conversation with Jeremy Cherfas, then a writer for the British weekly science magazine New Scientist over how the press misunderstood Velikovsky, Cherfas had counter-arguments to many points that Ellenberger was not able to rebut.[6] According to Professor of Social Theory Alfred de Grazia at New York University, "By 1983 Ellenberger was preparing to abandon much of quantavolution and found now that the story of Velikovsky was not without its shady tones, and more important, that Arctic ice cores and bristlecone pine dating technologies were directly contradicting Holocene quantavolutions . . . ; further, that Gentry's studies of the surprising 'instant' polonium halos of creation . . . were probably invalid."[7] Henry Bauer described Ellenberger's role in the Velikovsky scene as follows: ". . . was a confidant to Velikovsky, a frequent visitor (often with camera) from April 1978 to his death in November 1979, and a Senior Editor of the Velikovskian journal Kronos, until the evidence forced him to conclude that Velikovsky's scientific claims were baseless. Velikovsky inscribed his copy of Ramses II and His Time 'To Leroy who is consumed by the sacred flame of search for truth', 20 May 1978, and gave him permission to sell 'Velikovsky's right!' T-shirts. Alfred de Grazia, impetus for The Velikovsky Affair (1966), appointed him chronicler of the continuing Velikovsky controversy in 1980. Ellenberger's last contact with Velikovsky was a phone call from him two days before he died."[8] Also, he "has tried unceasingly but to little avail to have his former colleagues acknowledge the accumulating evidence, for example, from Greenland ice cores, that Velikovsky's claimed catastrophes did not in fact occur. Ellenberger points out, too, that Velikovsky's writings have become superfluous: astronomically plausible argument and speculation about relatively recent cosmic catastrophism can now be found in the work of Victor Clube and Bill Napier (The Cosmic Serpent, 1982; The Cosmic Winter, 1990), where the testimony of myth and historical records is also taken into account."[9]

Ellenberger has degrees in chemical engineering and finance & operations research (B.S., Washington Univ.; M.B.A., Univ. of Pennsylvania). He is currently a Medical Article Retrieval Specialist in St. Louis, Missouri.[10]

Velikovskian critic[edit]

C. Leroy Ellenberger with Immanuel Velikovsky at Seaside Heights, New Jersey, in 1978.

In 1984, Ellenberger noted:

" Over the past four years I have come to appreciate that, even if Velikovsky were right, there are good physical reasons why astronomers and other scientists have opposed him so tenaciously. Unfortunately, many of these reasons, often based on information developed since Velikovsky wrote his books, have never been discussed in Velikovskian forums or have never been discussed in a fully informed manner. Examples of the former include the Worzel Ash, ice cores, and plate tectonics. Examples of the latter include tree rings, ice age dynamics, geomagnetism, and cosmic electricity.
" Most often, spokesmen for mainstream science such as Sagan, Asimov, Gardner, and Oberg have not expressed their criticisms using valid arguments but, rather, tend to substitute polemic, ridicule, and caricature for serious discussion. The resulting performances are riddled with errors and are received by Velikovskian partisans with diminished credibility. Their fixation on Velikovsky's text to the exclusion of later researchers in Pensée and KRONOS has also been a source of frustration. As a result, focus has been shifted away from substantive criticism in depth with more cogent criticisms having gotten side-tracked."[11]

Ellenberger's most widely read criticisms of Velikovsky were two 1985 correspondences to Nature: "Falsifying Velikovsky" vol. 316, p. 386,[12] and "Velikovsky's evidence?" vol. 318, p. 204, and two 1987 letters to the editor in New York Times: May 15, p. 14,[13] and August 29, p. 14.[14] While citing these publications, Richard J. Huggett, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Manchester, averred that Ellenberger "has, since his conversion to the anti-Velikovsky camp in 1984, relentlessly and mercilessly tried to show why Velikovsky's ideas were downright silly. . . ."[15] The second Times letter was rebutted by Clark Whelton in a letter published September 29.[16] Although the Times did not print Ellenberger's point-by-point surrebuttal to Whelton's letter,[17] it was distributed (a) privately by mail with the September 1, 1987 "Dear Friends" letter[18] and (b) to all attendees at the August 1990 "Reconsidering Velikovsky" Conference in Toronto.

In 1994, Ellenberger was disinvited from a conference on Velikovsky because other participants said they would not attend if he participated.[19][20] This incident was instigated by the same group who in 1992 had deleted the section "Magnetism, Dynamos and Neptune"[21] from Ellenberger's invited memoir for Aeon[22] that explained the ignorance of Velikovsky and many of his supporters concerning the role of electromagnetism in astronomy and the origin of planetary magnetic fields. Previously, he was an invited speaker at Milton Zysman's August 1990 "Reconsidering Velikovsky" Conference at University of Toronto, identified on the program as "Velikovsky's most unrelenting critic" who was interviewed for The Globe and Mail,[23] and he was the keynote speaker at the August 1992 Canadian Society for Interdisciplinary Studies conference in Haliburton, Ontario. He is also the author of the article "Top Ten Reasons Why Velikovsky Is Wrong About Worlds In Collision" which he says:

".. is based on 30 years exposure to Velikovsky's ideas which includes 8 years as an insider at the Velikovsky journal Kronos (1978 - 1986), confidant to Velikovsky (4/78 - 11/79), invited "Devil's Advocate" at Aeon ('88 - '91),[24] and 13 years as a turncoat/critic interacting with Velikovsky's defenders and/or successors at conferences, in private, and in Usenet ('94 -'96) & list-serve forums."[25]

Of these attempts to de-program Velikovsky's supporters, Henry Bauer noted Ellenberger "has tried unceasingly but to little avail to have his former colleagues acknowledge the accumulating evidence, for example, from Greenland ice cores, that Velikovsky's claimed catastrophes did not in fact occur."[26] His resignation from Kronos as senior editor in December 1986 was acknowledged by Martin Gardner,[27] who previously noted Ellenberger's "vitriolic" letters defending Velikovsky.[28] Regarding Ellenberger's defection, Skeptic editor Michael Shermer declared: "One major strike against Velikovsky is that Leroy Ellenberger, a one-time Velikovsky supporter, after stepping outside of the paradigm to examine the evidence in a clearer light, now completely rejects all tenets of the theory."[29] Sagan biographer Keay Davidson credits Ellenberger "In my experience" as "the single richest source of information on the Velikovsky controversy."[30] Astronomer Dennis Rawlins hails Ellenberger "the world's top anti-Velikovsky expert".[31] NASA astronomer David Morrison, who has monitored the Velikovsky scene since 1972, has thanked Ellenberger for helping "to look at these issues from the other side and to appreciate how poorly the scientific critics communicated with the public."[32] Ellenberger's role as a Velikovsky turncoat and critic has been recently affirmed by Ronald H. Fritze in Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions.[33] Princeton historian Michael Gordin acknowledged "a special debt of gratitude" to Ellenberger for his contributions to The Pseudoscience Wars.[34]

Clube and Napier's model[edit]

Ellenberger came to accept Victor Clube and Bill Napier's model as a scientifically valid and intellectually satisfying replacement for Velikovsky-inspired models of recent, interplanetary catastrophism. Astronomer David Morrison noted "In fact, the work of Clube and Napier attracts many people who were once impressed by Velikovsky, such as Leroy Ellenberger, at one time a member of the Velikovsky inner circle and now one of the most outspoken critics of his current followers".[35] Since 1990, Ellenberger has actively promoted Clube and Napier's model, now named "coherent catastrophism",[36] in articles for Skeptic,[37] C&C Review,[38] and Catastrophism and Ancient History,[39] letters to editors,[40] and postcard mailing campaigns to Velikovskians.[41]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kronos Vol. X No. 3 (Summer 1985) p.24 "Contributors." Invited defenses of Velikovsky were published in Zetetic Scholar, Biblical Archaeology Review, Astronomy, and Frontiers of Science.
  2. ^ Ellenberger, C. Leroy (1979). Heretics, Dogmatists and Science's Reception of New Ideas. Kronos Vol. IV No. 4, pp. 60-74.
  3. ^ Kronos Vol. IV No. 4 (Summer 1979) p. Cover iii "Contributors."
  4. ^ For example, Ellenberger has had Velikovsky-related material published in Science Digest, New Leader, The Humanist, Industrial Research & Development, Fate, and the SIS Review, (ref: Kronos Vol. IV No. 4 (Summer 1979) p. Cover iii "Contributors"), and articles on other subjects in Analog, New Scientist, Penthouse, Science Digest, Fate and Pursuit (ref: Kronos Vol. X No. 3 (Summer 1985) p.24 "Contributors"). In Physics Today he rebutted Robert V. Gentry on polonium halos (Dec. 1984, pp. 91-2) and on absolute dating (Mar. 1986, pp. 152, 154).
  5. ^ Ellenberger, C. Leroy (1980). Oberg in Confusion. Astronomy October, pp. 26-28, replying to Oberg's Forum essay "Predictions in Collision" in July issue and Ellenberger, Leroy (1981). Velikovsky Redux. Astronomy February, p. 36, replying to Oberg's letter in December issue.
  6. ^ Ellenberger, Leroy (1992). Of Lessons, Legacies, and Litmus Tests: A Velikovsky Potpourri (Part One). Aeon III, 1. pp. 86-105.
  7. ^ Grazia, Alfred de (1984). Cosmic Heretics, Metron Publications, Princeton, New Jersey. ISBN 0940268086. p. 372. Quantavolution.org
  8. ^ Bauer, Henry (1996). Editorial Prologue by Henry Bauer. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 10 (4), 561; UGA.edu
  9. ^ Bauer, Henry H. (1996). Velikovsky, Immanuel. in Stein, Gordon (editor), The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Press. ISBN 1-57392-021-5. p. 783.
  10. ^ "C. Leroy Ellenberger - Medical Article Retrieval Specialist." (Web site)
  11. ^ Kronos Vol. X No. 1 (Fall 1984) "Still Facing Many Problems (Part I)", pp. 87-102: showing that the evidence from the Worzel ash, tree rings, and Greenland ice cores does not support Worlds in Collision.
  12. ^ Ellenberger, C. Leroy (1985). Falsifying Velikovsky (corresondence). Nature, 316 p. 386: "SIR--In his review of Henry Bauer's Beyond Velikovsky, Owen Gingerich observes: 'Although science cannot prove that a Velikovskian scenario is impossible, it might well prove that it did not happen'[1]. Although Gingerich selects Peter Huber's analysis of the Babylonian Venus tablets for this purpose, they simply are not decisive enough. Indeed, Rose and Vaughan's critique of Huber[2], to which Gingerich alludes, is stronger than he allows. "The best evidence proving Velikovsky's scenario did not happen is provided by Greenland's Dye 3 ice core[3]. This core is continuous and datable by counting annual layers back at least 7,200 years. Velikovsky's catastrophes should have left unequivocal markers in the ice. Not only are the expected heavy dust layers absent, but volcanic acid fallout, identified with ancient eruptions in the Velikovskian time frame, is comparable in amount to that associated with single, recent eruptions[4]. This is not what would be expected if catastrophes of the magnitude described by Velikovsky had actually happened[5]. C. Leroy Ellenberger, 3929A Utah Street, St Louis, Missouri 63116, USA [1] Gingerich, O. Nature 314, 692-693 (1985). [2] Rose, L.E. & Vaughan, R.C. Kronos X:2, 1-12 (1985). [3] Dansgaard, W. et al. Science 218, 1273-1277 (1982). [4] Hammer, C.U. et al. Nature 288, 230-235 (1980). [5] Ellenberger, C.L. Kronos X:1, 97-102 (1984)."
  13. ^ Immanuel Velikovsky 40 Years Later: Not to Be Taken Seriously, NYtimes.com
  14. ^ Eruption That Destroyed Thera Left Crete's Civilization Intact; Theory Also Exploded, NYtimes.com
  15. ^ Huggett, R. J. (2002). Cranks, conventionalists and geomorphology. Area 34(2), 182-189.
  16. ^ Catastrophism Can Still Explain Earth's Changes, NYtimes.com
  17. ^ Whelton in Unordnung, UGA.edu
  18. ^ Information on Velikovsky, posted to talk.origins 22 August 1997, UGA.edu
  19. ^ Henry H. Bauer, Science Or Pseudoscience: magnetic healing, psychic phenomena, and other heterodoxies (2001) University of Illinois Press, p.154, ISBN 0-252-02601-2 (Bauer's book misreports the conference year as 1992.)
  20. ^ Ellenberger (1997). Hysterical Velikovskians Flee Own Frankenstein-Mongoose! DIO, 7 (1), 30-33., DIOI.org
  21. ^ "Magnetism, Dynamos and Neptune" posted to sci.skeptic and talk.origins by James J. Lippard, 25 Apr 1994, as an example of what Aeon considered unacceptable: Skepticfiles.org
  22. ^ Ellenberger, Leroy (1992). Of Lessons, Legacies & Litmus Tests: A Velikovsky Potpourri, Part 1. Aeon, 3 (1), 86-105.
  23. ^ Balsara, Nilu (1990). Earth a dangerous planet, writer warns. The Globe and Mail, August 20, 1990.
  24. ^ Letter, David Talbott to C. Leroy Ellenberger, August 31, 1988
  25. ^ "Top Ten Reasons Why Velikovsky Is Wrong About Worlds In Collision"
  26. ^ Bauer, Henry H. (1996). Velikovsky, Immanuel. In Stein, Gordon (editor) (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-021-5, pp. 781-788.
  27. ^ Gardner, Martin (1988). The New Age: Notes of a Fringe-Watcher, Prometheus Press. ISBN 0-87975-432-X. pp. 70-71.
  28. ^ Gardner, Martin (1981). Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus, Avon Books. ISBN 0-380-61754-4. p. 386.
  29. ^ Shermer, Michael (1996). Sagan, Gould, and Velikovsky (review). Skeptic, 4 (4), 107.
  30. ^ Davidson, Keay (1999). Carl Sagan: A Life, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-25286-7. p. 470.
  31. ^ Rawlins, Dennis (2005). Backward Boobs at the American Astronomical Society. DIOI.org
  32. ^ Morrison, David (2001). Velikovsky at Fifty: Cultures in Collision on the Fringes of Science. Skeptic, 9 (1), 62-76; reprinted in Shermer, Michael (editor) (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, Santa Barbara, California ISBN 1-57607-653-9. 473-488.
  33. ^ Fritze, Ronald H. (2009). Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions (Reaktion Books, London). ISBN 978-1-86189-430-4. pp. 183-4, 191.
  34. ^ Gordin, Michael D. (2012). The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-30442-6. pp. x, 199-200.
  35. ^ Morrison, David (1997). Is the Sky Falling? Skeptical Inquirer, 21 (3), 22-28.
  36. ^ Asher, D.J., S.V.M. Clube, W.M. Napier and D.I. Steel (1994). "Coherent Catastrophism". Vistas in Astronomy, 38 (1), 1-27; Abstract at Harvard.edu
  37. ^ Ellenberger, Leroy (1995). An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions. Skeptic, 3 (4), 49-51. Posted to talk.origins, 2 February 1996: Google Groups
  38. ^ Ellenberger, C. Leroy (1992). Celestial Hazard vs. Celestial Fantasy. C&C Review, XIV, 41-4.
  39. ^ Ellenberger, C. Leroy (1990). Tisserand and a Trojan to the Rescue. Catastrophism and Ancient History XII (2), 206-18.
  40. ^ The Sciences, Jul/Aug 1991, p. 56; Skeptic 1995, 4 (3), 22, Skeptical Inquirer, Sep/Oct 1997, pp. 60-1 UGA.edu and Discovering Archaeology, Sep/Oct 1999, pp. 6-7.
  41. ^ For example: 75 "To those interested in Velikovsky" dated Oct 24, 1990; 35 "A Guide to Velikovskian Studies", January 1991, Google Groups, 134 "Clube & Napier Update", August 2, 1994; 311 "Dawn Behind the Dawn", Oct 23, 1995; and 150 "The Nexus of History & Religion with Astronomy", Apr 27, 1996.