Constructed criticism

January 13, 1995

In trying to marginalise the sociology of scientific knowledge into its own little ghetto, Steven Weinberg ("A zing of truth", THES, January 6) asserts what he takes to be a forceful analogy -- that no one would write a book about mountaineering called Constructing Everest.

Of course one could write such a book and it would demonstrate the very issue that Weinberg (dis)misses: the class and nationality basis in the rise of Alpinism in the 19th century: the nationalistic rivalry in the conquest of physically remote sites; the romantic failure of Mallory and Irvine; the British triumph ushering in a New Elizabethan Age; the creation of a whole sub-technology devoted to high altitude climbing, etc, etc. Everest is nothing so simple as just a very high mountain. Indeed, The THES seems to recognise this, since in the same issue you have a picture of Everest captioned "Summit of ambition".

Hugh Robinson Computing department Open University

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