Catastrophism and Alternative Cosmologies
at http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/velidelu.html Ellenberger's letter defending Clube and Napier appeared in the Sep/Oct 1997 issue of CisCop, pp. 60-61, as follows:
David Morrison's disparaging remarks on the coherent catastrophism espoused by Clube and Napier and coworkers are not warranted. Morrison lauds Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, edited by Tom Gehrels, but neglects to mention that Clube and coworkers are contributors.
Morrison fails to distinguish properly between the stochastic model, marked by random hard impacts of 1-km objects on a time scale of 100,000 years, and Clube and Napier's model, in which the main threat is from aerial detonations of multiple-Tunguskas (and larger) in a flux of massive fireball storms. These occur in clusters, over 1,000 to 2,000 years, when the orbital evolution of a meteor stream, such as the Taurid complex, results in a temporary (century or two) nodal intersection with Earth's orbit. This behavior can arguable be called "the dynamics of armageddon." The differences between the models and the uncertainties in both the lunar cratering record and the current Near-Earth Object population at all energy levels are such that the coherent model cannot be discounted.
Clube and Napier's many publications present evidence that the evolution of the Taurid complex and its parent comet has been a major factor during the Holocene, contributing to major climate reversals and influencing the development of civilization and religion. At one time, the Taurid complex contained visible bodies considered to be gods. In The Cosmic Winter, Clube and Napier note: "Catastrophes of this sort, delivered by visible celestial gods, are completely outside modern experience, but it is clear that they could have been a major reason for the preoccupation with, and dread of, the sky manifested by the earliest civilizations."
Finally, Morrison's commentary is marred by three minor errors: (1) The "now-famous paper published in Science ... by Luis and Walter Alvarez and their colleagues" was in 1980, not 1981. (2) Gerrit Verschuur is not British, but a U.S. citizen born in South Africa of Dutch parents. (3) While I appreciate Morrison's noting my defection from Velikovsky to Clube and Napier, I regret to say I am not one of "many people" who did so. My conversion, as explained in my "A lesson from Velikovsky" (Skeptical Iquirer, Summer 1986, 380-381), is rare. An updated account titled "An Antidote to Velikovskian Delusions" from Skeptic 3:4 (1995) can be found at http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/velidelu.html .
-- C. Leroy Ellenberger
St. Louis, Mo.
In reply, Morrison wrote:"...I can only say that most astronomers and geoscientists find the evidence presented by Clube and Napier concerning the historical (and pre-historical) influences of the Taurid complex to be less than convincing. Presumably further research will help indicate whether the current danger is roughly as I have depicted or hundreds of times greater, as they infer from their interpretation of ancient sources."
It was disingenuous of Morrison to imply coherent catastrophism is based solely on the "interpretation of ancient sources" because Clube and Napier also present the physical evidence supporting their model, even in the final chapters of _The Cosmic Winter_. Much of this evidence is interpreted by mainstream researchers with no consideration of Clube and Napier's model (as with various signals in the ice cores) as even a possibility, or else it is set aside as "enigmatic". Coherent catastrophism is not a model that has been evaluated and found wanting; it has yet to be properly evaluated.