Religions have reason to fear things like air pumps and electricity not for the science behind them, but for the revelations that may come with them. In the book, Johnson writes about how Priestley was ultimately driven out of England because of what his scientific revelations led him to believe. Priestley began questioning the divinity of the saints of the Church. He didn’t feel like they should be worshiped the way they were because, to him, it felt more like Paganism. The dilemma for the church was that if he was questioning the divinity of saints, and writing multiple papers about how saints are not the divine people the church saw them as, what was stopping him from doing the same about God? With new knowledge, and people beginning to question the instance of supernatural thinking (which is what the church needs), people began to question the church’s authority. Governments also had to fear these scientific advancements because of the threats they also posed. Considering the discovery of new gases along with phlogiston, they were scared of what those things combined could have the potential to do, especially since Priestley was always keen to share his findings with anyone.
While Johnson’s work focuses mostly on Joseph Priestley, I think it also shines a light on how unwilling people can be to change or adapt to a new way of thinking. Priestley himself was unwilling to adapt to a new way of thinking when it came right down to it. Sometimes scientific advances can scare people, even if it makes things better, like GMOs which have been around since humans first started farming and domesticating plants and animals.