The argument against Velikovsky derived from the Babylonian Venus tablets is part of the so-called “Merrit FAQ” (Worlds in Confusion…). It turns out it is again Sagan and the rest, along with t.o regulars who parrot them, who are confused.
If Sagan is correct and our system is billions of years old, and Venus has been in its present place for billions of years, then ancient astronomical charts and observations MUST show Venus in its present orbit. Indeed, scientists claim that they DO; they used some of this evidence at the AAAS meeting in 1974 which produced “Scientists Confront Velikovsky”, claiming that the well-known “Venus Tablets” of the Babylonian king Ammizaduga showed Venus entirely in its present orbit in the middle of the second millennium BC i.e. during the period when, according to Velikovsky, it would have perforce been unstable.
But then, a number of real scholars began to take a harder look at the Venus Tablets. The following is from an article by Lynn E. Rose from the Winter 73 issue (#III) of the Pensee Journal, the old Student Academic Freedom Forum. This is a long article which I could not quote in its entirety. The article treated mostly with the manner in which the tablets involved have been translated in the past.
The key paragraph of the article read as follows:
“Unfortunately, nearly all treatments of groups one and three on K. 160, and of the genuinely observational material on the other Venus tablets that supplement K. 160, have been based on what I call the “astronomer’s dogma”. The “astronomer’s dogma” is the uniformatarian attitude that the solar system has for untold years been just as it is now, and that Venus and Earth in particular have always been on the same orbits they are on now, except for certain very minor perturbations that are for most purposes entirely negligible. This means that we can look at the present motions of Earth and Venus and then judge on that basis how accurate the ancient observations were. If the ancient observations do not conform to what would be expected from the present state of affairs, then the ancient records were defective, and were either fictions or errors, but could not have been accurate observations of what was going on in the sky; accordingly, it is up to us to rewrite those ancient records so that they WILL conform to what we see in the sky today.”
Rose notes the nature of Venus as it appears to us first as evening star, disappears for a few days of inferior conjunction, reappears as morning star West of the sun for some months and then disappears during superior conjunction. He notes that one of the Babylonian tablet fragments (K. 160 from the library of Ashurbanipal, now in the British Museum) appears to be a record of these comings and goings:
“Let me give some typical passages from the tablet:
“In the month of Sivan, on the twenty fifth day, Ninsianna [that is, Venus] disappeared in the east; she remained absent from the sky for two months, six days; in the month Ulul on the 24’th day, Ninsianna appeared in the West - the heart of the land is happy. In the month Nisan on the 27’th day, Ninsianna disappeared in the West; she remained absent from the sky for seven days; in the month Ayar on the third day, Ninsianna appeared in the east - hostilities occur in the land, the harvest of the land is successful.
“The first invisibility mentioned in these lines involves a disappearance in the east, an invisibility of two months, six days, and a reappearance in the west. This seems to be a superior conjunction. The second invisibility involves a disappearance in the west, an invisibility of seven days, and a reappearance in the east. This seems to be an inferior conjunction. Most of the data in groups one and three on the tablet are of this form. But the lengths and spacings of these invisibilities have a certain irregularity about them, and they do not conform to the manner in which Venus moves at present.
“The data given in the second group on the tablet do have regularity - even too much regularity to be believable, - but they do not conform to the present state of affairs either…
These kinds of things are well-known to scholars who have actually studied the tablets. Rose mentions numerous translators, Boseanquet & Sayce, Schiaperelli, Langdon and Fotheringham… He notes [as an example], that:
“The next major study of the Venus tablets was by Langdon and Fotheringham in 1928. Their book is important for the student of the tablets in that they bring together a great deal of material that is not available in any one other place; unfortunately, however, their book is dominated and severely handicapped by the astronomer’s dogma, and they find it necessary to scoff at much of what the tablets say was actually seen, simply because such things are not seen today.”
He cites also the case of Van der Waerden:
“Further attempts to deal with the tablets along uniformitarian lines were made by Ungnad in 1940 and van der Waerden in 1946. Van der Waerden plays the uniformitarian game much better than some of his predecessors, but the main reason I want to mention him here is that he is the clearest example I have found of an unfortunate way of talking and thinking that is characteristic of uniformitarians. He says at one point, after either rejecting or radically rewriting about three out of four of the recorded observations, that: “All I have done is to remove inner contradictions from the text.”
Charles Ginenthal (Sagan and Velikovsky) has a great deal to say about the Ammizaduga tablets, pp 281 - 284, quoting Livio C. Stecchini’s “The Velikovsky Affair”:
“The Venus tablets of Ammizaduga is the most striking document of early Babylonian astronomy. These tablets, of which we possess several copies of different origin, report the dates of the helical rising and setting of the planet Venus during a period of 21 years…
“Since the first effort at explanation of Archibald Henry Sayce in 1874, these figures have challenged the wit of a score of experts of astronomy and cuneiform philology. (Father Franz Xavier) Kugler (1862 - 1929), a recognized major authority on Babylonian and biblical astronomy, chronology and mythology, opposed the contention of those who claim that these documents must be dismissed as nonsense.” [because they do not conform to present orbital patterns for Venus]
Indian and Central American records also show Venus moving on an orbit other than its present one. Ginenthal cites Evan Hadingham (“Early Man and the Cosmos”):
“The Venus pages [of the Dresden Codex] bear little resemblance to a modern astronomical table.”
Ginenthal goes on to say:
“Since Hadingham, like the astronomers who dealt with the Babylonian tables cannot conceive nor accept this evidence that Venus’ orbit was different in the past, an analysis is created to dispose of this information. This is so in spite of Hadingham’s asserting the following regarding Mayan astronomy:
‘The precision of the observations documented in the few surviving hieroglyphic books is astonishing. For instance, one book contains a scheme for the correction of Venus observations [present variety as opposed to the distant past] which ensures an accuracy of approximately two hours in five hundred years… How were they able to score such phenomenal success in their observations?’”
“Astronomers, in attempting to deal with this evidence respecting Venus, either ignore the data or invent systems to explain it away so that it will conform to their uniformitarian view. By employing a sledge hammer, they smash the tablets of Ammizaduga to bits and then reassemble the fragments to prove that Venus’ orbit has never changed. Although Velikovsky does not explain the precise cause for the circularization of Venus’ orbit except to invoke electromagnetic forces, the plain evidence of the ancient astronomers shows that Venus’ orbit was different, and therefore, more elliptical than its present, almost circular orbit and thus, there must exist a force that circularized it.
This is a bona-fide example of circular reasoning. The tablets are changed in translation to conform with what everybody KNOWS to be reality i.e. uniformitarianism. Then these same mis-translated tablets are used by the typical yuppie “scientist” to refute Velikovsky.