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Gravity Is Only a Theory
Yes, literally.

The effects of gravity can be explained by other theories. An example would be the acceleration theory which asserts the earth is actually moving 'upward' at a constant rate of 1g (9.8m/sec^2). This produces the same effect as "gravity". note  note 

Dissing gravity as a way of dissing either reality itself or some theory/guess/world-view.

For various reasons, the theory of evolution is the only scientific theory that gets challenged on a regular basis in Real Life. In some works, however, the theory of gravity comes under fire as well, most often for purposes of analogy and satire.

See also: I Reject Your Reality, Science Is Wrong, What We Now Know to Be True, and Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions — and see Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress for when gravity itself is simply acting goofy.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Saint Seiya, in Shiryu's final trial to earn his Dragon cloth he has to revert the flow of a waterfall using his Cosmo, Shiryu at first objects to the trial saying that it's impossible since it goes against the laws of nature, his master, Dokho, chastise him by saying that "There's no law that says the water has to flow downwards" and that the so-called "Laws of Nature" are the feeble attempts of weak men to explain what they can't possibly comprehend.
    Comic Books 
  • In one Dilbert strip, Dogbert theorizes that gravity is optional and that this is the reason why most people are stupid: Smart people question everything, and when they start questioning gravity they get flung out into space.
  • Chick Tracts:
    • Some tracts go into this territory, claiming that the solar system is held together by Jesus' hand rather than any scientific principle such as gravity (see page illustration).
    • Others even state that matter is held together on the subatomic level not by gluons, but by the will of God.

    Film 
  • In the computer world of The Matrix, gravity is not real because the world is not real. At the end of the first movie, Neo gives the tyrant overlords the proverbial finger by flying off in broad daylight, showing mankind that gravity is not all it's cracked up to be.
  • You Are Here: If you walk through that door on the seventh floor (the one leading straight out in the air, not to a balcony or bridge or anything), there's only two things to be afraid of as you fall towards the ground... that you will hit it. And that you won't.

    Literature 
  • Franz Werfel in Star Of The Unborn depicts a far future in which science and theology have been unified by Ursler's Fundamental Paradoxes. The Principle of the Infinitely Mobile Central Point of All Conceivable Orbits has established that the Earth really IS, in some way, the center of the universe, and the official Uranographer moves the stars around every night to spell out the day's news. This actually makes some sense in that statements like "the earth goes around the sun", or vice versa, imply that there is some absolute frame of reference.
  • The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster claims that "gravity" is actually the Flying Spaghetti Monster gently pushing us down with his noodly appendages. This theory is supported by the fact that people are taller now than during the stone age, and also more numerous: Clearly there is less gravity for each of us these days, and thus we grow taller.
  • Invoked by Charles Darwin in an essay 1842: What would the Astronomer say to the doctrine that the planets moved (not) according to the law of gravitation, but from the Creator having willed each separate planet to move in its particular orbit?
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slapstick, the protagonist and his sister theorize that gravity was once variable, which is how the Pyramids in Egypt were built. This turns out to be true when their theory is used by the Chinese to change gravity back to how it used to be. From that point on it varies daily.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it was a fairly simple matter to learn how to fly. All one had to do was learn how to throw oneself at the ground... and miss. From a Certain Point of View this is true physically: if you're up at some distance from the surface of the earth and move aside with enough speed, you will be "falling over the horizon". After some time you'll have gone all round the Earth: you're in orbit.
  • 1984: As O'Brien puts it, "I could be floating in front of you right now if I wish it. Right now I do not wish it, because it does not suit the Party."

    Live Action TV 
  • Phoebe in Friends states, "Lately I get the feeling that I'm not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed" when Ross compares evolutionary theory with gravity. It was never confirmed whether she was serious or just messing with Ross.

    Music 
  • Tim Minchin refers to this phenomenon before playing I Love Jesus.
    Tim: “But evolution is only a theory!”, which is true, it is a theory, it’s good that they say that, I think, it gives you hope, doesn’t it, that - that maybe they feel the same way about the theory of gravity… and they might just float the fuck away.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Mage: The Ascension, Gravity is only one of the many oppressive and arbitrary rules that The Technocracy forces on us and The Traditions want to get rid of.. On the flip side, because consensus reality sort of becomes the mage's personal reality the closer you get to him, there is often convenient floor-directed 1*g gravity and 1*atm air pressure wherever a mage that's too lazy to come up with better is standing... even if he's standing on an asteroid, in space, with no atmosphere.

    Web Original 

    Web Comics 
  • In this strip from I Drew This, a preacher is arguing for Intelligent Falling, leading to students walking off cliffs. It is left ambiguous whether they do this because he have convinced them to disbelieve gravity or because his crude discourse has pushed them past the Despair Event Horizon. note 
  • In this Men In Hats strip, Sam pooh-poohs evolution as "some theory without any evidence," and Gamal tells him that gravity, like evolution, is "just" a theory. Sam's reaction: "Oh I'll float, God damn you."
  • 8-Bit Theater. Fighter attempts to save the group from a lethal fall by blocking the earth. It never occurs to him to factor in gravity or any other forces that might deadify anyone who was stupid enough to try such a thing. It works.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal parodies both Evolution and Gravity "theories". For those less scientifically literate, gravity is actually somewhat poorly understood. While the basic idea of "Two masses exert attractive forces on each other" is sound and verified, the actual theory of gravity is not. Ironically, the understanding of gravity is much closer to the more colloquial definition of theory, rather than the scientific definition. In short, when trying to demonstrate how well grounded the Theory of Evolution is, comparing it the the Theory of Gravity is counter-productive.

    Another good example of how the scientific terminology is more nuanced and different than common use: the phenomenon (objects acceleration toward each other in proportion to mass) is firmly observed and existent, the law (that, on the macro-scale, force = g*m1*m2/d^2, and its more thoroughly detailed relativistic version) is well-established and verified as it can get, but the Theory, i.e. the set of explanations describing why these things are so in the context of all the other stuff we know, is not very well fleshed-out.
  • Invoked by Stephen in Academia as part of The Rant.
    Pasha: ...you've based this whole report on a theory. Isn't that ad ignorantium?
    Stephen: I am this close to killing you. That is not what theory means! A scientific theory is something we know is true because of huge amounts of empirical evidence! Gravity is a theory! Atoms are a theory!

    Western Animation 
  • In a "U.S. Acres" segment on Garfield and Friends, Roy tricks Wade into thinking that the law of gravity (or "grabbity", as Wade misinterprets it) has been repealed, leading to Wade thinking he's going to fly off into space.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter gets Mel Gibson to walk off Mt. Rushmore because, according to Peter, “Christians don’t believe in gravity.”

    Real Life 
  • Alan Sokal wonderfully played on this trope, stating: "Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment." He used to live on the twenty-first floor.
  • Additionally, there exist several alternative formulations of gravity, such as Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) and Modified Gravity (MOG) which differ from Einsteinian gravity in their asymptotic limit, as a way to account for astrophysical observations without invoking the existence of dark matter.
  • The force of gravity is also a "fictional" force...the action of Gravity is actually believed to be caused by the bending of space in the presence of matter, and not by an actual force exerted by matter itself.
  • The exact nature of Gravity - whether it is a Fundamental Force (alongside the affirmed Fundamentals of Strong Force, Weak Force, and Electromagnetism) or whether it is an Emergent Force - is so hotly debated in the scientific community and among enthusiasts that proclaiming support for either stance on a science forum is as close flamebait as one can get in learned circles.
  • The eminent physicist James Clerk Maxwell was being deeply sarcastic when he explained gravity by "Maxwell's Demons" - ever-vigilant invisible entities that are forever on the lookout for falling things, and which will rush into a room at the first sign of a dropped pencil to grab it and convey it down to floor level. At the speed of light, naturally. Compare this idea to the page image...

"Only a theorum", other theorums than gravity and evolution

    Literature 
  • One of the short stories in Vetenskap och Ovetenskap (Science and Unscience) features a member of the Flat Earth Society who dismisses the idea of the Earth being round rather than flat as "only a theory."

    Music 
  • SPOCK start their song Alien Attack with dismissing geology as "just a theory". It looks as if they are about to build a case for Earth Is Young, but it quickly turns out that they're actually arguing that the dinosaurs never died out... and now they are back to reclaim their planet!

    Video Games 
  • In Sam & Max: Freelance Police Season 2, Max claims not to believe in the existence of magnetism, insisting it's 'only a theory'. Then he brings out his Luger...only for it to be magnetized to the North Pole. He then says he believes it, "But that's my limit!"

    Web Comics 
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • A combination of two strips plays creationism for laughs by invoking the idea that the theory about the earth moving around the sun rather than vice versa is only a theory. The first strip joke about creationists demanding to put "evolution is only a theory" stickers in biology textbooks. The next strip joke about a guy from the 13th century demanding the same kind of stickers in astronomy textbooks.
    • In a much later strip, a biology teacher reverses the arguments against evolution— he argues that history is only a theory. More specifically, he does not believe in "the theory of revolution": According to his religion, all states were created in their current form (he handwaves away revolutions he could personally observe as "microrevolutions" whose resulting states are basically the samenote ). However, he was deliberately using Insane Troll Logic in order to prove his point that teaching Intro Biology was tougher than teaching Intro History, as the latter will (hopefully) NEVER get the kinds of "theories" that the Biology professor would encounter.


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alternative title(s): Intelligent Falling
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