Plausibility of Myth
By David Talbott
THE TWO FACES OF "PLAUSIBILITY"
On several occasions recently, in reference to the Saturn theory,
David Davis raised the vexing question of physical plausibility.
This is a first shot at putting the question into perspective,
particularly for those such as David D who were not present as
such questions were discussed over the years.
The problem involves two radically different fields of evidence—
human memories on the one hand, and physical observation on the
other. But truth itself is unified, and one can be certain that
when conflicts occur something is wrong on at least one side of
the ledger. A false assumption, a false reading of evidence, a
false analysis of probability, or an invalid deduction. So how do
we deal with the situation when human memories speak convincingly
for something which orthodox science, with equal persuasion, denies?
The Saturn theory suggests events and natural forces contrary to
almost everything believed by the scientific mainstream. Does
this mean that science gets to tell us whether the theory is
"valid", without showing that we have misstated or misused
evidence, or applied reasoning to the evidence improperly?
Mainstream theorists can certainly point out the disparity
between the claims of the Saturn theory and the textbook history
of the solar system. And we can, in turn, point out that things
which science considers out of the question were consistently
remembered around the world and with a degree of detail and
coherence that is inconceivable under usual explanations. But
the situation is a stalemate until a ground of reconciliation is
reached. What is impossible could not have happened. What
happened cannot be impossible. And this fact is, singularly, our
basis for confidence that answers CAN be found. We have either
misapplied principles of reasoning to the historical evidence, or
science is misreading evidence to a profound degree.
A quick background statement for more recent subscribers to this
list. The Saturn theory involves a congregation of planets
including at least two gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn) and the
planets Venus, Mars and Earth, all moving around the Sun, with
the Earth close enough to these bodies that they present a
spectacular and at times frightful presence in the sky. Four key
contrasts with conventional theory are inherent in the
construction: 1) dramatic changes in the planetary order in
geologically recent times; 2) a period of collinear alignment
within the hypothesized configuration (during this period, of
indeterminate length, the planets stayed in line and were thus
seen from the Earth as juxtaposed spheres); 3) a period of axial
alignment between the Earth and the collinear configuration, so that
Saturn and the other bodies appeared fixed at the pole; and 4) an
indeterminate period in which a bright crescent on Saturn
visually turned in the sky (due to light from the Sun and the
effect of Earth's rotation), the positions of this revolving
crescent around the pole reflecting the terrestrial cycle of day and night.
Now perhaps you have wondered how I could have ever proposed such
a thing, knowing full well that PLANETS DO NOT BEHAVE THIS WAY under
the fundamental "rules" of celestial dynamics. Actually, it was easy.
I was convinced that the weight of historical evidence is, when
evaluated logically and dispassionately, more persuasive than
present scientific beliefs about planetary behavior. And this
conviction has only grown over the years. The scientific consensus
is not a finished encyclopedia with an exclusive on truth, and in
fact that consensus is proven wrong every day.
Critics have often assumed that when I first proposed the idea of
a "Polar Configuration", I simply didn't know that everyday science
virtually FORBIDS the underlying concepts. But in fact I knew
this very well, and from the beginning I had people repeating the
obvious to me. So I said (in print, more than once) that the
configuration is, in terms of present scientific understanding,
"impossible", or (when I was feeling more charitable to the
concept) "highly implausible". To which I would add (in so many
words) that the "truth must be out there", even if we have missed it.
Now step into this perspective for a moment. I am as certain
that huge planetary forms were seen in the sky as I am of any
rule of logic, or any natural experience known to man. This is
because the universal memory is too explicit, too concrete and
too unusual to be explained in any other way. This is now an
unshakable conviction with me. Apart from the implied celestial
references, the accord of human memories is simply not possible.
And I do mean NOT POSSIBLE. I am not asking you to believe this,
just to understand that this is the position I hold, which may
also help you understand why I believe so strongly that our
task is, above all else, to develop a clear and effective
presentation of the historical argument. What must be developed
is a presentation SO clear that those rare but uniquely capable
and open-minded individuals within the sciences will be inspired
to ASK THE QUESTION and to help us find the ground of
reconciliation. I am not foolish enough to think that I will be
the one to solve the challenge scientifically!
I have to speak subjectively on this, but I believe that all who
have worked to solve a mystery, or to understand a new idea, or
to discover a new possibility will share in the confidence I am
expressing on this point. It is BECAUSE truth is unified that the
sense of a new possibility will always direct you to follow the
implications of the idea through a maze of tests. At every step,
this was the basis of my growing confidence in the historical
reconstruction. As the planetary configuration came into focus,
it began to suggest many hundreds of tests, always implying that
if I would look in this direction, or that direction, I would
find specific data (enigmatic meanings of words, drawings of
things not seen in our sky, unexplained re-enactments of cosmic
events) consistently speaking for the same underlying forms.
And for this very reason, I shall continually urge true
explorers in the sciences to follow the tests into their own
domains as well. (Still speaking for myself now.) These things
happened. That means the dynamical principles must be available
to us. The physical evidence must still lie in the ground. It
is just that, as Kuhn himself would put it, we are not seeing the
To illustrate the way this confidence works, I want to give a few
examples relating to the greatest conundrum in the first 21 years
of the research - the principle of collinear alignment (planets
staying in line while moving around the Sun). Even now, on the
Kronia discussion group, we periodically see posters remarking on
the "impossibility" of such a configuration. Here is what they are
In any Newtonian system, planets move around a center of gravity.
If the hypothesized Jupiter-Saturn system revolved around its own
center of gravity as it moved around the Sun, one must deal with
the principle of orbital equilibrium and Kepler's Third Law. The
farther a planet is from the center of gravity, the slower will
be its orbital velocity and the longer will be its orbital
period. But planets staying in line would have to have the SAME
orbital periods. Therefore, an in-line configuration is
gravitationally impossible. Given the imposing momentum of
planet-sized bodies, surely no "secondary" force could even come
close to resolving the problem.
"The polar configuration is a blatant violation of Kepler's Third
Law." Even various Velikovskians joined in that refrain. Leroy
Ellenberger repeated it many times. Later, Tim Thompson, on the
Internet discussion group, talk.origins, repeated it in a
series of postings.
So how could one claim, based entirely on human memory, that a
physical principle MUST be available to support the concept?
Well, here's what happened. Some 21 years after I had first
proposed a collinear configuration (originally I did not even
know that the name for such a thing existed), the dynamicist Robert
Grubaugh contacted me with a bombshell revelation. In orbital
mechanics, he said, there is something called collinear equilibrium.
If you put planets in line around the Sun, close enough to each
other that they are all within what is called the "sphere of influence"
of the dominating planets (in this case, Jupiter and Saturn), there is
for each of those planets an equilibrium position at which they will
STAY IN LINE until disturbed. In the unique condition of collinear
equilibrium, the usual implication of Kepler's Third Law does not apply!
Suddenly, a 21-year objection based on "things KNOWN to science", collapsed.
So here was a first demonstration of the maxim, "the truth is out
there" - a startling convergence of the historical argument and
physical principle. Not just an interesting and unique principle,
but the very principle the historical argument DEMANDED.
Was this the end of it? No, that began a series of revelations
following the same pattern. First, there was the proclamation by
critics that something was "impossible" (the favorite word in the
lexicon of debunkers); then there was the subsequent revelation
that a particular dynamic principle overlooked by the debunkers
was the very principle the Saturnian reconstruction called for.
I will enumerate a series of examples in submissions to follow,
all coming under the same heading - CONVERGENCE.