Government and religions need not fear the air pumps and electric machine as objects themselves but the new understanding of the world that can come with their discovery. Anything that is not evidence-based will fear any change. Joseph Priestley was a pioneer in chemistry, accidentally made soda water and founded the Unitarian church. His work emphasized the grandeur of nature and science as a moral pursuit. He wanted people to question their surroundings and in doing so he incited “civil unrest” with his peers. The British government cracked down on politically dissenting views, that they considered dangerous, but was really just science. Priestly caused the same kinds of upheaval in the church as he did with the government, so he is run out of the country by an angry, drunk mob. “But eventually the mod stumbled across Priestley’s laboratory, which had been built at a distance from the main house and was amply stocked with tools for combustion. Within a matter of hours, Fair Hill was gone…All of it had been lost to the fire.” (Johnson 166-167) I think it is safe to say that Priestly could give a few sermons to the dangers of changing public opinion, one that religion and government would well heed.
The reading definitely brings to mind the political debate over teaching the origin of the species in schools. I had to wait till college to learn about early ancestors and that is only because I am taking anthropology. It is so sad that so many people do not know about the art in the cheve caves or even how America was truly discovered. It is considered controversial to political and religious power, so people try not to discuss it at family gatherings. The consequence of having different levels of education is apparently getting your house set on fire.