Legend has it that in the mid-17th Century, Isaac Newton “discovered” gravity after watching an apple fall down from a tree. Almost four hundred years later, this discovery, and the Law of Gravity itself, remain among science’s most hotly controversial topics (at least among these columnists). Devil’s Advocate co-columnist Gaughan has indeed often found himself its victim. While others might harp on his own recognition of his utter lack of physical coordination to explain his tendency to trip, slip and nearly or fully walk into things, Gaughan elects to tie his target to gravity itself. Of this conclusion, however, Granahan has not found himself fully convinced.

While previous editions of the Devil’s Advocate have evaluated prominent political controversies, in observation of April Fools’ Day, this column will attempt to incite one. Below, Granahan will argue in favor of the Law of Gravity, while Gaughan will argue against it.

For (Granahan):

In 1689, roughly two decades after Newton’s theory of universal gravitation was developed, Enlightenment philosopher John Locke laid out some of the fundamental principles governing democratic governments in his Second Treatise of Government. In this text, Locke acknowledged that although man was created “with a title to perfect freedom,” it would be unfeasible for an individual to, without institutional assistance, “preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men.” In order to solve this conundrum, Locke invoked the concept of the social contract, acknowledging that people must surrender some of their freedom in exchange for security and protection from their government.

To some extent, the Law of Gravity takes the form of a social contract. In exchange for humanity being perpetually bound to the Earth, humanity is protected from spontaneously levitating into the desolate void of outer space. In that respect, gravity has upheld its end of the social contract. Despite the conniving attempts of devious humans to break free from the benevolent clutches of gravity, only three humans — Soviet cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov — have died above the limits of outer space, during the ill-fated Soyuz 11 mission. Gravity has clearly done its job, preventing the cataclysmic losses of countless humans to the vacuum of space that would likely accompany an absence of gravity. It is therefore only fair for humans, as the subjects of gravity, to adhere to its laws.

Even according to the laws of the United States, gravity is an entirely legal phenomenon. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution stipulates, among other provisions, that every citizen is subject to the equal protection of the law. Throughout U.S. history, the extent to which the Equal Protection Clause can be applied has been fiercely debated, with some arguing that it can’t be enforced against private actors. But as demonstrated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and affirmed by the Supreme Court case Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, even private entities are forbidden from discriminating based on a protected class. According to Newton's universal law of gravitation, every single particle — regardless of size, state, temperature, or any other distinction — experiences gravitational force. For that reason, the Law of Gravity can be seen as an extension of America’s storied history of promoting social and political equality.

It is also important to draw attention to the most influential moments in the history of the modern world, none of which may have been possible without the presence of gravity. One must imagine, for instance, an Operation Overlord devoid of gravity, in which Allied troops storming the beaches of Normandy began to float into the airspace of Caen, leaving them entirely visible and defenseless against Nazi gunfire. Or perhaps, imagine a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s only dream would be one of survival for a quarter of a million activists left struggling to stay on Earth. And without gravity, there would be no iconic game-winning plays made by Michael Jordan in 1998, nor David Tyree in 2008, nor Kris Bryant in 2016.

I certainly empathize with my co-columnist’s frequent struggles against gravity. However, to quote University of Oklahoma master’s scholar, two-time Pro Bowler and current Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts, “The most important thing is to be where your feet are.” Without the institution of gravity, it would be impossible for us as a people to be on the ground, standing on our feet. Thus, the only sensible conclusion is that gravity, for all its flaws, is a necessary evil.

Against (Gaughan):

Old institutions that rely on our acceptance, without question or criticism as to why their continuity is necessary, can never be beneficial for a democratic society. When the founders of our great nation signed our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776, they knew this. From the earliest days of our republic, constitutionalists have promoted continuous reevaluation of the character of our country, resulting, for one, in the introduction of a new constitution less than a decade after the formal activation of the preceding Articles of Confederation, to better adjust for the needs of our nascent country. Of course, institutional backbone is vital for the continued maintenance of a democratic society, but never without contemporaneous reflection. In this manner, on one screeching subject, our leaders have failed us.

This manner is not the continuity of the perpetually embattled Electoral College (an institution worthy of debate elsewhere), or anything else pondered by our Founders at the time of our national birth. It is that of gravity.

The so-called “Law of Gravity,” which remains an enforced rule on American soil, has long been a shot in the foot of our republican society. If we do attribute this “law” to Sir Newton, then we must yet dig further into just how much its continuity has flown in the face of American federalism. What authority this long-dead scientist has garnered over modern American society, he has achieved without any form of American political legitimacy. While Newton should not be considered a fully apolitical figure by nature (having served as a Member of Parliament and affiliated himself with the British Whig Party), any political and law-making legitimacy he may have enjoyed must surely have been forfeited over this land when our forefathers moved for independence. Thus, we must consider the constitutional ramifications for the continued acceptance of this “law,” and subsequently, its justiciability.

Constitutionally speaking, in this important debate concerning whether we, as a democratic society in the 21st Century can continue to abide by the so-called “Law of Gravity,” we must turn to the Tenth Amendment. Passed among the original set, the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution states clearly: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In this case, given the fact that neither Congress nor the states, nor the people themselves have legislated such a restriction against themselves, this “Law of Gravity” must surely be held unconstitutional without caveat.

Finally, we must consider not just the unconstitutionality within our borders of so barbaric a “law,” but the illegality thereof on the international stage. When in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR), its authors provided us with yet another point from which gravity must be rebuked. Article 13, Section 1 of the same states clearly that “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” With respect to gravity, there is no overriding issue of national security or politics over which the United States, or to this student’s knowledge, any nation-state has proclaimed gravity a law of its own. Thus, without existing objection, we must hold that gravity, for its automatic restriction on our freedom of movement, is not only unconstitutional within the US, but illegal internationally.

In all, we must finally realize that the “Law of Gravity” is one entirely without political or legislative legitimacy. As a free people, we must now accept that the time has come to take a stand and make clear that gravity can hold us down no longer. The only thing that ought to fall is Newton’s lasting demagoguery.