Priestly’s revolutionary ideologies spanned his religious, scientific and political perspectives as one interconnected web; they informed and affected one another and ultimately propelled a freer way of thinking. As Johnson describes it, “the radical’s belief [is] that progress inevitably undermines the institutions and belief systems of the past” (238). With technological advancement came political rethinking and religious unorthodoxy, and vice versa. This is the essence of Priestly’s quote. Although today those fields are viewed as separate entities, to Priestly they were entirely interdependent. Therefore, the British monarchy could only fear a revolution of government as scientific discoveries swept across Europe. The corrupt “education of our ancestors” was merely a stepping stone for a brighter future where “embracing change meant embracing the possibility that everything would have to be reinvented” (Johnson, 239).
This is not less true now than it was in Priestly’s time, and the implications are all around us. The epitome of this is the invention and spread of the Internet. In previously excluded and censored countries, citizens now have an unprecedented access of information and communication, and although their physical and virtual freedoms are still limited, many social and political revolutions have been spurred by the use of the Internet. The most well-known example of this is the Arab Spring, but countless other revolutions have similarly followed this technological advancement. Nuclear technology is another example of the trifecta merging. The invention of the atomic bomb and subsequent Cold War arsenal race led to the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction—and a political standstill between the two great powers of the world. Humans were elevated closer to the image of gods in terms of their destructive potential, and socially, everyone was made equal with the possibility of world annihilation. This is rather an alarming example, but it illustrates the truth Priestly wrote of two hundred years ago.