Science, truth and dictatorship: wishful thinking or wishful speaking?


Stephen John


This paper uses the case study of Lysenkoist genetics in the USSR to argue that concerns about “wishful thinking” are better understood in terms of “wishful speaking”, where scientists make claims which are not well-established because of the non-epistemic consequences of others believing those claims. Shifting attention to the communicative helps us to identify a desideratum for any appeal to non-epistemic values in science: that the values are “apt” in the sense of shared by the audience of the claim. Finally, I argue that democracies may be prone to “wishful speaking”, but democrats can explain why wishful speaking is wrongful.