The statement that governments and religions should fear air pumps and electrical machines is a comment about the fact that scientific progression brings about revolution. That they are laying “grains of gunpowder” which will ignite change and there will be no turning back. (pg. 160) The gunpowder metaphor angered a lot of people and made a mob come against him, because the radicalness of his viewpoints was too much for people to swallow. A lot of wars have been won or lost by science.
Johnson points out that the internet has helped with new discoveries by making it easier to share information and collaborate. The flow of information in Priestley’s day was hindered by the speed of the post and having to have people in the same place to collaborate. Today, we can connect in our proverbial pubs with people from all over the globe instantly, thanks to the internet. Johnson says open information is necessary and is a defining characteristic of our day, in part due to the ease of exchange. “That new openness has helped nurture the kind of multidisciplinary thinking that was the hallmark of Priestley’s intellect. Fields like information theory, ecosystem science, and evolutionary theory rank among the most influential and generative scientific fields of the past fifty years, spawning debates that have unavoidable consequences for the spheres of politics and faith…” (pg. 205) Politics and religion get into the debates around science because they are trying to keep their positions and not have to change due to new scientific discoveries. Johnson seems to think science is only going to continue to foster radical changes and created new ways of sharing ideas.