Air pumps and electrical machines used to send shivers down the spines of English politicians and priests. The idea that such machines could be created and used by average citizens made them feel vulnerable and less great. In order to hold onto this greatness, they needed to be able to suppress any form of progression in the sciences or engineering that could threaten their government or religion. As Johnson shares on page 181 of the book the group that despised the work that Priestly and other progressives were doing were doing it because they were afraid of the power they might someday have and they didn’t want to face any change. For those in charge the status quo was good enough and they desired to keep it that way.
Johnson points out at the very end of the book just how the political and religious world continue to have strong feelings about progress and just what that means. He points out on page 239 just how todays politicians still disagree with each other over progress and how many of them in fact see that as a return to the way things used to be. His research particularly looks at energy and how our sources and functions of energy may change in the future. This alone draws plenty of political and religious controversy as all parties have a particular view of these issues.