I'm studying for a masters degree in history, and recently had a rather troubling seminar with a highly talented historian/literature professor who complained at the lack of interdisciplinarity in humanities research (this is a science-related question, I promise). He claimed that historians, in their relentless pursuit of "truth" have favoured the study of "documents" over "texts"; leaving literature and its historical contexts to be studied by language majors. The valuable insights into the hopes, aspirations and ideals of a period that literature can give is not seen as the domain of objective, rational inquiry. This is, he points out, rather incongruous. After all, simply studying the documents of the Cold War will give you far less of an idea of the public mood and uncertainties of the time than watching 50s scifi movies. Watching "The Taming of the Shrew" will give you a better idea of women's behaviour in the 16th century than reading "courtesy books" which discuss an ideal, rather than an actuality.
Anyway, what he ultimately said was that many things, texts, artefacts, even pictures, could be read historically. He even went so far as to mention that archaeological and anthropological remains could be read historically. It was at this point that I began to wonder, where does history end and science begin? Of course, I am aware of the scientific method; hypothesis followed by experiment followed by repeatable result etc. However, at what point does this ideal of objectivity break down? I've often read that science and other forms of "rational" inquiry are based on fact. But it seems to me that what is really being spoken of is observations. Scientists make observations and then infer the facts from them. But how solid are these facts?
My degree has already made it very clear that there is no such thing as historical truth; all that occurs is the reading and interpritation of a text. But where does that leave me as far as science is concerned? After all, the genetic code and the geological record are, in their own way, texts. How do I stand up to a creationist who claims that he is merely reading the text one way, and I another?