Joseph Priestley stated, “The English hierarchy (if there be anything unsound in its constitution) has equal reason to tremble at an air pump, or an electrical machine. In the second half of Johnson’s The Invention of Air, he describes how Priestley’s discovery of oxygen affected not only the American Revolution with military uses, but also the connection between science, politics, and religion. Governments and religions have reason to fear air pumps and electrical machines because of the “rapid process of knowledge, (scientific thinking), that would challenge the explanatory models of religion” (Johnson 148). Priestly, during the American Revolution, wrote about the new chemical techniques that he had developed and how they might be used to improve the explosive power of gunpowder, or make its manufacture more efficient (Johnson 141).
Johnson’s work does shed light on current examples of scientific or technological research that also hold social or political consequences such as technological advances in the military. Nuclear energy is an example that has created political troubles that have yet to be solved today, such as how to deal with nuclear waste to the efforts to reduce the increase of nuclear technology around the globe. Another example is regarding firearms. With the increase in more advanced firearms, there are not only political consequences, but also social consequences such as cases of suicide and gun violence.