The Fear of the Air Pump and the Electrical Machine

Air pumps and electrical machines symbolize scientific exploration and discovery. Therefore, governments and religions should fear science because scientific advancements will challenge a country’s political institutions and religious beliefs. This does not go to say that governments and religion should be the enemies of science, rather that science can uplift these institutions and society can progress towards a better future. For instance, Johnson says “England and France would have much to fear from an American air pump, if the current administration would only see fit to endow its schools with technology” (p. 115). This demonstrates that, if the American government would equip schools with scientific technology, then science could pave the way for advancement and change within the country, and it would become a competitor with England and France. Additionally, Priestly believed that “…scientific thinking would challenge the explanatory models of religion… [and] then [went] on to make an even bolder suggestion, linking the march of scientific progress to political change…” (Johnson, p. 86). Here, Priestly shows us that advancements in science lead to changing perspectives in religion and government because people are enlightened and better informed of the world around them when scientific advancements are made.

In my view, science absolutely is a catalyst for change because it challenges our perceptions of the world we live in and grants us with a new perspective. For instance, current scientific research has revealed the social consequences global warming could have – such as the displacement of people living on coastlines. Scientific research shows that, if we do not make changes to our way of life, the world around us will force humanity into a change. This will hold extreme social consequences and will eventually hold political consequences if people continually get more adamant about demanding their government act upon combating climate change. 

One thought on “The Fear of the Air Pump and the Electrical Machine

  1. It’s true that technology paves the way for advancement and change. It makes sense why religious institutions and governments dislike scientific progression, because new phenomena generally discredits and disproves claims made by these organizations. For example, if science were ever to prove the existence of aliens, it would cause mass hysteria on earth due to the fact that it would completely disprove the bible. This would be because there is no mention of any other forms of life in the book and religious followings would drop. Religious and government institutions want to do anything to keep their power, and when technology or science threatens to take it away then they become afraid. It has to do with their ability to remain in control of people’s minds and their beliefs. When Hitler and the Nazis took part in burning books, it was because they did not want people to read and gain more knowledge. They didn’t want people thinking for themselves, and the same issue applies here. Technology broadens the horizon of the common person, and that makes these institutions vulnerable.


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