Priestley: The First Airbender

Governments and religions should fear air pumps and electrical machines, not necessarily because of the nature of the inventions themselves, but because scientific advancement stands to challenge the preset notions of these large scale institutions. As the beginning part of Priestley’s quote goes, the “rapid process of knowledge… [will put] an end to all undue and usurped authority in the business of religion, as well as of science” (Johnson 148). Essentially, as our understanding and manipulation of the world around us accelerates, governments and religions can no longer stand as untouchable entities based on what was previously considered absolute truth. In Priestley’s day, the air pump and electrical machines were enough of an advancement to fill this niche, but in modern day a multitude of scientific issues impact the world of faith and politics—Johnson outlines global warming, stem-cell research, and atomic energy as a few (Johnson 229). Politicians are often selected based upon their scientific and religious beliefs, and in current discourse religion is often pitted against science as two opposing world views. This assembly of factors serve to make science a “threat,” of sorts, against the status quo of religion and government.

Johnson’s work can be applied to much of the scientific and technological research taking place in the modern world. As mentioned above, advancements in stem-cell research and atomic energy are major ethical issues, including both politically and religiously. Looking into stem-cells particularly brings up moral quandaries similar to the ever-controversial abortion debate, with the added element of having medically-transformative applications arise from the scientific research. Johnson’s work would indicate the fact that issues such as this must be looked at in three different ways, from the angle of science, of course, but also of politics and religion (Johnson 229).