New beginnings for Priestley

Religions, more so than governments, should fear air pumps and electrical machines. Throughout the second part of the book, Johnson recalled Priestley’s difficult time against a religious territory in which he studied. Many of Priestley’s issues arose from his unorthodox beliefs – at the time, he was a rebellious minister and theologian, and eventually helped found Unitarianism, a movement found horrendous by other denominations of the time. Johnson discusses how mobs burned down Priestley’s house and laboratory to show how much he was hated by his community, ultimately leading to being exiled. He later found himself settled in the United States, where there was great gain in having a mind like his own. There was a craving for discoveries, a craving for new ideologies. What I took from the second part of the book was that religion-based hierarchies narrow the ability for free-thinking and publications of the free-thinkers. They play too much with the notion that two things cannot exist at the same time: a god and scientific backing that it is not due to a god that something exists.

I think Johnson’s work sheds new light on the fact research and discoveries in biotechnologies and artificial intelligence in theory would produce major benefits to society, but have social AND political consequences. I think these two topics have a very polarized opinion, and I think it is due to the fact that we have not seen an almost exponential progression like this in our human lifetime. The same way British society felt about Priestley’s discoveries and theories that Johnson mentions – scared of change, scared of what they believed to be so true to turn out so wrong.

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