Within Johnson’s book and Priestly’s life, governments and religions had reason to fear things such as air pumps and electrical machines because of what they meant for the status quo in the culture. It drastically changes how energy, and thus, power, moved through society. To those who were in the “upper crust” as it were, or who didn’t want the society in which they held the most power to change, inventions such as these were dangerous and devastating. They also had a power in changing the minds of people, instead of just their station, which meant they were more likely to question the government’s and the church’s choices, reducing their power significantly. In pages 166-168, these circumstances and reactions are brought into more specific detail, adding how the old system of government couldn’t keep up with the economic changes brought by the industrial revolution, but didn’t want to admit it, or change how they laid out their plans for seats of power and taxation.
Johnson’s work, and focus on the life and troubles of Priestly, do have relevance in changing the point of view that can be taken on many forms of research and the societies reactions to them, today. There has always been a fear of change in the general world. That what is in the past in superior in some ephemeral way, perhaps because it is familiar. We don’t know what the societal result of cloning sheep and developing artificial wombs could be, so we jump to the worst possible conclusion – that it will end everything. Johnson argues that things we think of as normal, or even old-fashioned, today, were the cause of riots barely a few hundred years ago, and that perhaps we should consider adjusting how we view the changes that instinctively scare us, and look for the radical good they can do, instead of just the radical bad.