ISR Special Issue: 'Conceptualizing Heterodox Palaeoscience'

deadline for submissions: 
May 6, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Richard Fallon and Edward Guimont

Call for a special issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews on the topic of 'Conceptualizing Heterodox Palaeoscience'

Science has gone down into the mines and coal-pits, and before the safety-lamp the Gnomes and Genii of these dark regions have disappeared … From within them she has brought the bones, and pieced together the skeletons, of monsters that would have crushed the noted dragons of the fables at a blow.

-Charles Dickens, review of The Poetry of Science by Robert Hunt, Examiner (9 December 1848)

Palaeoscience (the study of Earth’s deep history) epitomizes scientific rationality’s claim to imaginative scope. From the first, its cultural eminence has been enhanced by the almost otherworldly ability of scientists to reconstruct fantastic monsters and place them in the epic story of deep time. Writing this story has carried immense prestige, but the history of palaeoscience is one of nebulous disciplinary boundaries and constantly contested or even non-existent orthodoxies. The subject thus presents an ideal case study for understanding how scientific arguments are (de)legitimized in public and specialist contexts. This issue is as vital today as it has ever been. In the past year alone, a study in Nature argued that the Bronze Age city Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by an asteroid, and a Geology study claimed that remains of a Pleistocene comet impact were evident in the Atacama Desert. This led to debates over whether these studies either gave credence to, or were influenced by, Biblical archaeology—recalling the scriptural preoccupations of many of the very first geoscientists.

This special issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews is intended to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines—including geology, archaeology, palaeontology, literature, physics, and history—to provide new perspectives on the question of heterodoxy in palaeoscience from the eighteenth century to the present. While we welcome research on classic subjects like cryptozoology, creationism, and continental drift, we encourage works that focus on heterodoxy and palaeoscience in the context of non-Christian cultures, the Global South, and sociocultural inequalities. Subjects authors may address include but are not limited to:

  • what forms of palaeoscience have been considered heterodox; what groups of people have been drawn to them (including lenses of race, class, and gender); when; and why
  • what types of evidence proponents have gathered to substantiate highly controversial claims, and where and how they have communicated these claims
  • what relationships these figures have had with the mainstream scientific community, particularly in centres of production like journals, laboratories, and universities
  • how heterodox figures and heterodox palaeoscience itself have utilized or been depicted in the media, including novels, poetry, film, local news, and videogames
  • how heterodoxy becomes orthodoxy, and orthodoxy becomes heterodox

Please submit a 500-word abstract and brief biography in Word to the editors at by 6 May 2022. Successful applicants will be informed promptly after that date. Final articles should be between 6000 and 8000 words long and should be submitted by 1 March 2023, for a likely publication date of 2024.