Priestley’s Paradise

According to Steven Johnson’s The Invention of Air, governments and religions should fear air pumps and electrical machines due to the the example that Joseph Priestley sets throughout the book. It starts out laying out the story of Priestley’s origins and what experiments he started out with. He began with a simple but rather gruesome experiment that involved placing a mouse inside of an air vacuum that was composed of a candle and an upside down jar. He would then place a mouse inside the jar with a lit candle so that the flame out use up all of the oxygen (little to his knowledge at the time). He would then go on the find out the the mouse died in a small amount of time. This would then lead his to discover the existence of oxygen. After that we used a mint plant in place of the mouse in the same experiment. He found that the mint plant was able to thrive in the glass jar. When he added a mouse to the plant’s jar the mouse was also able to survive within the isolation. After these discoveries his name became large within the public and he went on to be seen as a leader for the english religious dissenters. This caused the public to turn against Joseph Priestley and started riots in the town of Birmingham. People raged through the towns and ended up destroying Priestley’s home and laboratory.

I believe that Johnson’s work and be comparable to the current issue and debate over genetically modifying our children to have the traits that we choose for them before they are born. Many people see the huge benefits of using this to our advantage but others have trouble when it comes to morally agreeing with it. Many people disagree with humans trying to “play God”. I can see the public having a strong opinion on this issue as the method becomes more and more common.

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