[People say] "But evolution is only a theory!", which is true, I mean it is a theory and it's good they say that, I think, because it gives you hope, doesn't it? That they feel the same way about the theory of gravity and they might just float the fuck away...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.note 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.
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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, chastises 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: 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.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun has a scene with the aliens commenting on humanity's "misplaced faith in gravity" and laughing about it.
- 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.
- From Northern English musical comic Mike Harding, there's the Sir Isaac Newton sketch, in which Newton has a sudden insight into the nature of gravity whilst sitting underneath an apple tree:
Apples fall down! Now that doesn't sound like very much, but Newton's discovery revolutionised the apple-picking industry, since up till then they'd tied nets over the top of apple trees and waited for the buggers to fall up...
- 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.
- 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.note 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!
- The site intelligentattraction.com
- The Onion has an article called "Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory," where fundamentalist Christians want equal time in physics classes, demanding that the theories of Newton and Einstein step back in favor of the theory that the universe is held together by Jesus.
- On the internet, "Intelligent Falling" seem to have developed into quite a phenomenon.
- One character here says "Screw gravity" and immediately begins floating upward.
- The YouTube comedy Miss USA - Should Gravity be Taught in Schools?
- Rational Wiki discusses and deconstructs this trope by name in their article on the term "Deepity" (which is a shorthand term for a phrase or statement that sounds vaguely profound but is actually nonsensical). They point out that "Gravity is just a theory" actually is correct... but also point out that many people who use the term are blatantly unaware of the definition of the word, as theory basically means "an idea that everyone agrees upon as correct unless it's refuted by later evidence". So while gravity really is "just a theory" that doesn't mean it doesn't exists and it's stupid to think otherwise. Rational Wiki also encounters a lot of other instances of this trope relating to other subjects. It comes with the territory of their goal of debunking pseudoscience and other such falsities.
- Assorted gravity-themed cartoons. Some fall under this trope.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Skydivers joke: Skydiving is a hobby where gravity is not presumed to be a social construction.
- 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 to flamebait as one can get in learned circles.
- The core problem is that quantum mechanics works fine for most things where it's relevant, relativity works fine for most things where it's relevant, gravity is the one place there's significant overlap where no one has figured out yet how to reconcile the two.
"Only a theorum", other theorums than gravity and evolution
- 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."
- Safehold: Variant. Many scientific theories (including gravity) are taught to the locals as divine miracles with no further context. If a doctor fails to wash his hands before a procedure and the patient dies, it's not because of germs, it's punishment for his sins. If you don't eat enough fruit and get scurvy, it's because of sin. The locals are even aware that their world is a globe, and are told that this is clear evidence of divine will, because what else could keep them affixed to a rock floating in space?
- 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!"
- 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 same.note ) However, he was deliberately using Insane Troll Logic in order to prove his point that teaching Intro Biology was tougher than teaching Intro History, because even though both have to deal with wackos and conspiracy theorists of all flavours the biology professor actually has to deal with bullshit "theories" as well.
- This was the original position of the Catholic Church with regards to the heliocentric model (i.e. that the Earth and planets orbit the Sun rather than the Sun, planets, and basically everything else orbiting the Earth, considered the literal centre of the universe) during the time of Copernicus and Galileo. These men were allowed to publish under the proviso that it was basically a mathematical model to simplify understanding of how the universe worked, eliminating the complexities (such as "epicycles") needed to make sense of the movements of stars. Galileo got into trouble with he Church when he started making claims to theology that contradicted the Church's official teachings on Scripture, and basically appearing to mock Pope Urban VIII, by putting his works in the mouth of the Simplicio in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, when that Pope had asked him simply to make an unbiased comparison of those systems and insert his own words somewhere.
- Climate change is a highly debated subject in the political spheres (less so in the scientific community, with roughly 97% of them supporting the model). It's controversial nature invites us to proceed with caution.