Why should governments and religions fear air pumps and electrical machines? Why climb the highest mountain? Why does Rice play Texas? For those of you who didn’t get the Kennedy reference…well that just makes things awkward…the real question here is why do governments and religions fear anything? Or, why does anyone fear anything? In short, the answer is control. We all, but especially governments and religions, fear things that might gain control of us, or that might take from us our own control over, well, whatever it is we’re controlling. In the case of governments and religions, these types of complexes might fear things like revolutions (scientific revolutions perhaps?), because a revolution is unashamedly aimed at stripping them of their control. Priestly was a really cool guy. His discoveries were absolutely world-changing, but is this kind of thing a red flag to those in control? Regarding religion, Priestly was seen by the Christian community as “a religious man forced to alter and reinvent his beliefs-and challenge the orthodoxies of the day” (Johnson, 172). Priestly wrote The Corruptions, which was just all too threatening and unorthodox for the British government. Even fellow scientists saw its publication as an opportunity to challenge Priestly’s reputation, in order to promote their own, which clicks us right back into the notch of control. Governments and religions alike were worried about Priestly’s enlightened way of thinking and its ability to cause previous beliefs to be, in Priestly’s own words, “overturned in a moment, and so effectually as that the same foundation can never be built upon again” (Johnson, 178).
Priestly being the lovely guy he was, fell a victim to others’ fears of losing control and therefore had his ideas rejected by many (but not good ‘ol President Jefferson). His discoveries’ consequences were not unlike those of many modern scientists trying to make the world a better place in ways that some just don’t see as “better”. Think about genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, for example. What do we have control over if we can’t control the natural characteristics of our own babies? Or is this too much control? How much control do we have over a computer that’s decidedly close to being human? What about the advancement of Social Media? Sure, we’re connected to one another but so much can go wrong and we often lose some integrity in our offline relationships, so is it worth it? Stem cell research…is killing an innocent person acceptable if it means finding ways to save the lives of other individuals? Long story a whole lot longer it’s just all about control and the acceptance of ideas will almost never be universal because somebody’s control is always on the line.