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Does Gravity Actually Exist?

In a lesson in the Academy’s biology textbook, I read:

“We are all familiar with the fact that the force we call gravity influences life upon this earth to a great degree.”[efn_note]Hunter, George W. “Elements of Biology”. New York: American Book Company, 1907), 83.[/efn_note]

First, I don’t believe that any student just learning natural sciences should be taking scientific knowledge for granted. Second, I don’t believe that our talk about “the force of gravity” is reasonable.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, we find the definition of “force” to be:

force: physical strength or power exerted upon an object.[efn_note]Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “force (n.1), sense I.5.a,” November 2023, https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/2614489616.[/efn_note]

When we speak of “gravity”, it is often shown by means of a demonstration. A man will pick up a stone from the ground and say, “When I let this stone go it will fall to the ground because of the force of gravity.” Then, he will let the stone go and it will fall to the ground.

What however, is the “force” in this example?

The stone was at rest on the ground. That is its natural place. The man used force to lift the stone off the ground and hold it in the air. When he released the stone, he ceased to exert force on the stone and it returned to its place of rest, on the earth.

If we say that gravity was the force at work, which caused the rock to move, we suggest that the rock was in its natural place above the ground, in the man’s hand. It is suggested that, if there was no force of gravity, the stone might have remained in the air when the man let it go, but this is not true. The stone was never resting in the air. It was being held, contrary to nature, by the force exerted by the man. When the man let go, force did not begin to be exerted upon the stone. Force ceased to be exerted on it, and it returned to its natural place.

Therefore, it is not gravity that pulls the stone down, but the force of man that picks the stone up. This demonstration in no way proves that a “force we call gravity” actually exists.

Let us consider a “Newtonian” definition of force, again, from the Oxford Dictionary:

force: an influence operating on a body so as to produce an alteration or tendency to alteration of its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line.[efn_note]Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “force (n.1), sense I.11.a,” November 2023, https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/6100427434.[/efn_note]

It would not be true to apply the term “force” to the return of the stone to the earth when let go by the man. The stone, after all, was not in a state of rest, but had been removed from its state of rest by the man and held in an unnatural place, namely, in the air. Again, with respect to the stone, the force that “produced an alteration of its state of rest” was the action of the man.

Thus, it does not appear accurate to suggest that the cause of a stone moving from a man’s hand back to the earth is a “force”. We can see what the force is in this example. It is the man’s action. “Gravity” is being used to name the absence of force, while suggesting that the suspended state, made possible by the continued application of the man’s strength (i.e., force) is the “state of rest”. This is simply not true.

In the context of the Biology lesson, it is said hat the roots of a young plant move “downward” because of gravity. Again, this is not an accurate description of what is going on.

First, the seed (as earth) is in an unnatural place. It was produced in a plant, raised into the air by the strength of the living plant. The seed was eventually released, and no longer acted upon by the plant, which caused it to return to its natural resting place: on the earth, beneath air and water. However, because of its size and the presence of air trapped within and beneath its body, it was suspended above earth and water. It may have been pressed into the earth by the force of a man, the foot of an animal, or the . When it began to sprout, its roots were able to return to the natural resting place of earth, which is beneath water and air. If we cut the seed into smaller pieces so that the “buoyant” affect of its size was removed, its parts would have done likewise. If we would have shaken the soil continually, the earth would have settled to the bottom, the water would have settled above the earth and the air would have risen above the water. The root of the plant is simply moving downward through an expanse of water or air to its resting place, just as a rock would move through water or air to return to its proper place. The roots are not moving out from their state of rest downward because of a force. Rather, they are no longer being acted on by any force other than that of the growth within them, and are returning to their natural place of rest. No earthly matter can naturally rest on water or air. Doing so is only an appearance.

That a “force” called gravity, which acts on bodies at rest and causes their motion to change cannot be demonstrated scientifically. Appealing to “Occam’s Razor” to overcome this lack of demonstration is comparable to Protestants appealing to “Sola Scriptura” to overcome their inability to demonstrate the impossibility of Catholic teaching.

The idea of a “force of gravity” is irrational and contrary to our observations.

On the subject, one writer actually argued the following:

“In the end, a scientific theory does not get proven. It gets established, though, but not by the evidence that supports it. Rather, a scientific theory is established by the number and cleverness of the failed attempts to disprove it.”[efn_note]https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/11/13/how-do-we-prove-a-well-established-theory-like-gravity/[/efn_note]

How many people understand that this is how scientists work? How many people know that scientists are not obligated to prove a theory true by means of experimentation, with reproducible results, before pressing it on others as “more than a theory”, even “scientific fact”?

I was never taught this idea of the “Scientific Method” in school, or at college–because this is NOT the Scientific Method.

The writer went on to admit,

“There is no way to absolutely rule out the idea that gravity is caused by invisible, insubstantial pixies that have an obsession with everything having to be as close together as possible.”

And then went on to say,

“The “proof” of gravity is the demonstration that the phenomenon happens.”

The problem with this argument is that it could also be used to show that the “pixies” are, in fact, just as real as “gravity”.

And, while appealing to Occam’s Razor, the complexity caused by this approach to “science”, which leaves us with an infinite number of possible explanations, does not actually provide the simplest explanation.

Aristotle’s natural philosophy did that.

WCM

2 Comments

  1. Matt N Matt N December 13, 2023

    Interesting analysis. Would you post your thoughts in a similar manner regarding modern science’s elements and the makeup of matter? I know I have read or heard in videos you seem to insinuate that you don’t believe they exist, or at least don’t exist in the way they are presented on the periodic table.

    • williamcmichael williamcmichael Post author | December 14, 2023

      Thanks for posting. Yes, I will begin discussing natural philosophy more this coming year.

      As for the “elements”, one of the key principles of modern science is the appeal to Occam’s Razor. In 1620, I believe that the Baconian philosophers imagined that their experimental science would make things simpler. Unfortunately, the attempt to understand the science of nature by means of observation (alone) has uncovered a world that is complex beyond human investigation. This has led to confusion and agnosticism. Occam’s Razor, in 2023, would not recommend modern experimental science to us for simplicity, but Aristotle’s natural philosophy.

      As for the elements, when we look at the periodic table, we find two things that are problematic. First, we find that only 90 or so of the elements listed “occur naturally”. Second, when we look at the actual quantities of the elements that do occur naturally, we find that only a few of them are present in any significant quantity. So, for all the hype, the period table presents a misleading view of the real natural world. Moreover, it is obvious that when Aristotle spoke of “earth”, he knew that gold and silver and iron were different substances, so clearly he was not speaking of elementsbin the modern chemical sense.

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