The statement that governments and religions should fear air pumps and electrical machines is a comment about the fact that scientific progression brings about revolution. That they are laying “grains of gunpowder” which will ignite change and there will be no turning back. (pg. 160) The gunpowder metaphor angered a lot of people and made a mob come against him, because the radicalness of his viewpoints was too much for people to swallow. A lot of wars have been won or lost by science.
Johnson points out that the internet has helped with new discoveries by making it easier to share information and collaborate. The flow of information in Priestley’s day was hindered by the speed of the post and having to have people in the same place to collaborate. Today, we can connect in our proverbial pubs with people from all over the globe instantly, thanks to the internet. Johnson says open information is necessary and is a defining characteristic of our day, in part due to the ease of exchange. “That new openness has helped nurture the kind of multidisciplinary thinking that was the hallmark of Priestley’s intellect. Fields like information theory, ecosystem science, and evolutionary theory rank among the most influential and generative scientific fields of the past fifty years, spawning debates that have unavoidable consequences for the spheres of politics and faith…” (pg. 205) Politics and religion get into the debates around science because they are trying to keep their positions and not have to change due to new scientific discoveries. Johnson seems to think science is only going to continue to foster radical changes and created new ways of sharing ideas.
1 thought on “Information flow leads to change”
Really great summation of the reading! Science and technology are more often than not the driving forces behind change and revolution. People in power like to hold onto that power so they can often times fear the change that technology and science brings. It changes peoples mindsets and frame of reference leading people to be question the status quo. I completely agree with your second paragraph, the flow of information and collaboration is absolutely critical to discovery. Things happen a lot faster these days than they did in Priestley’s time and that includes discoveries and changes in technology and science. I do agree with Johnson that science will continue to be associated with radical change.
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