Governments and religions typically strive to maintain the current social order of the hierarchies they oversee. Science, in contrast, questions reality and pokes rational holes in the fabric of social institutions. Joseph Priestley was the poster child for the radical thoughts such institutions shunned (Johnson, 149). Priestley’s “air pumps” and “electrical machines’ shift the flow of energy in society and transfer the power from politics to the sciences. When one man like Lavoisier, can refine the chemical properties of gunpowder or a handful of Northern British Industrialist can spark an economic revolution of coal, one realizes that the true power to change the future lies in the hands of the experimenters, not the state or church (Johnson, 142). It’s the scientists who “improve the efficiency of their steam engines and ironworks” not the kings (Johnson, 168).
In the modern world, Johnson’s text helps frame the controversy in world sports doping. From the Tour de France to the Olympics, The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) is always a couple steps behind the chemists and athletes attempting to beat the system. Any country or team that successfully cheats their way to victory can harness that success into geopolitical power. The Russian Olympic team’s systematically doped during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. President Putin utilize his country’s subsequent Olympic domination to boost his approval among his people. The science of performance enhancement has the potential to shatter all prior notions of what’s fair in sport. Future athletes may be better off spending their college years in the chemistry lab not the gym. WADA and world nations should fear such technology being utilized not only for unfair victory but also political gain. All science, not only earth shattering CRISPR or Artificial intelligence but even relatively small-scale sports doping, can hold massive political significance.