A Piece from Priestly

In the epiparagraph prompting this blog, Priestly asserts that the mightiest of empires should fear even the smallest inventions. As seen throughout world history, and in the first discussion this class had, even miniscule scientific developments can have powerful, even disastrous consequences for the environment and geopolitics. The Invention of Air focuses on the latter. Johnson uses gunpowder as an example starting with the attempted terrorism of Guy Fawkes and focusing on its role in the Revolutionary War that tore Priestly between England and what would soon be the United States. In this instance of power and electricity, Johnson writes “one of the primary reasons Franklin was so preoccupied with matters of war was the simple fact that his country didn’t have enough energy on its side” (Johnson, Pg. 142). At the same time, Priestly occupied himself with politics, liberally supporting the American Revolution. In addition, Priestly spoke out to in question of religious philosophies, such as the soul. The powers that be, especially the church, were angered by Priestly’s writings because they “would undermine the existing religious authorities by invoking the very same principles that governed his scientific research: expose as many ideas as possible to as many minds as possible” (Johnson, 147). Priestley’s inventions and science gave him power, and that grew to rival the establishments of government and religion.

By reflecting on Johnson writings, I cannot help but think of how our own government has taken a hand in scientific rhetoric. The Trump administration has not only deconstructed the EPA, but has also prohibited certain words from scientific research, namely that by the CDC. The administration did so to protect conservative ideals regarding science. More specifically, the science of global warming and climate change. This act of censorship is not unusual, as with Priestly, but is merely another chapter in the saga of science versus government and other establishments.

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