Speaking of myths (see my previous post, Are the Palestinians Canaanites? Should We Care?), I received an e-mail today from a nice woman I’ve spoken to on the phone a few times, Shula Kogan. Kogan is the daughter of Immanuel Velikovsky, the psychiatrist and scholar famous for his theory that the historical account offered by the Bible is best understood if we assume that the planet Jupiter ejected what is now the planet Venus and Venus turned into a comet and swung by the earth a couple times, causing the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the descent of manna from heaven, and other supposed miracles.
Kogan has set up a website devoted to Velikovsky’s theories (in Hebrew, sorry), and is pressing science correspondents to write about it.
Velikovsky was a very smart man, but smart men need myths, too. He was certain that the biblical narrative was factually true, and as a man of science wanted to prove that scientifically. He was also a proud Jew of profound national sentiments (and was involved in founding of the Hebrew University).
He became convinced that by collating ancient texts and marshalling facts he could prove that a huge cosmic cataclysm had occurred in historical times and that no one, so far, had noticed. While he was not a Zionist propagandist, it helped that this cataclysm helped establish the Jewish claim to Palestine.
Velikovsky’s theories were roundly rejected by the scientific community, for sound scientific reasons (here’s Stephen Jay Gould’s take on them, and see links to more on Velikovsky, for and against, on his Wikipedia page). But they remain compelling to a not small circle of devotees. Venus’s near collision with the earth has become another myth that helps some people understand who they are.
I’m waiting for the Palestinian version.