Peer review problem in science fiction

For a bit of relaxation I have just re-read an old sci-fi paperback from my shelves, Isaac Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky. I was struck, for some reason, by the following passage, describing how an archaeologist of the distant future, named Arvadan, had suffered the unprecedented indignity of having his senior dissertation rejected (peremptorily) by the Journal of the Galactic Archaeological Society:

To a non-archaeologist, the reason for such anger against an obscure and dry little pamphlet, entitled On the Antiquity of Artifacts in the Sirius Sector with Considerations of the Application Thereof to the Radiation Hypothesis of Human Origin, might seem mysterious. What was involved, however, was that from the first Arvadan adopted as his own the hypothesis advanced earlier by certain groups of mystics who were more concerned with metaphysics than with archaeology; i.e., that Humanity had originated upon some single planet and had radiated by degrees throughout the Galaxy. This was a favourite theory of the fantasy writers of the day, and the bête noire of every respectable archaeologist of the Empire.

Asimov was, in fact, in academia himself, as a professor of biochemistry. It is likely that, when the book was first published in 1950, he was alluding tangentially to some example of professional bigotry and intolerance of the time. It seemed as I read it to ring some kind of bell, but since I wasn’t born then I can’t think why it should. Does anybody have any ideas?

In any case, we can only be grateful it was an aberration that could not happen now.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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