“scientists have stuck with the idea that data are the most important thing, and that, as one biologist put it, "the data is the data." Of course, those of us in the humanities, having taken our dose of postmodernist medicine, question the notion that data can just be data. We want to introduce the notion that social, cultural, and political forces can create and shape the data. We claim that the interpretation itself can make the data, or that the data aren't as solid as they look. For example, "data" in the 19th century led scientists to conclude that women and blacks were mentally inferior to white males, but now we see that the data were shaped by interpretation. And an experiment to find data about women and depression will depend a lot on how the research question is framed in the first place.
But the scientists participating in the biocultures project aren't having any of that. The whole purpose of experimental protocols, they argue, is to eliminate variables and make the data be just and simply the data. Clearly the scientists recognize that the questions asked in putting together an experiment will shape the nature of the results. But they resist the notion that the data produced by some platonically perfect experiment can be subjected to any kind of skeptical doubt. Yet literary-philosophical types doubt even the existence of "hard facts."
In the example I just gave, the notion of hard facts on the one hand and the idea of social construction on the other cannot seamlessly merge into each other. Naive calls for interdisciplinarity might assume that they could. A more sophisticated interdisciplinarity might mean coming up with new disciplines altogether. It might even mean that the traditional divide between the two cultures of science and the humanities might have to break down. Knowledge might look very different from what we know, from what our ossified departmental and professional structures look like now. But how many universities are willing to transform the blueprints of their internal structure? If we don't radically restructure how we approach knowledge, "interdisciplinarity" will remain just a buzzword for administrators and a code word for amateurs to teach whatever they want.”