mardi 4 septembre 2012

What's In a Natural Law?

Autumn, your science teacher on the video said:

The law of gravity tells us, if you drop a pencil, it will fall towards the centre of the earth every time.

Well, depends in what theory of natural laws is the true one. If they are blind, exception free, a total necessity, never did a man hang his gloves on a sunbeam mistaken for a hook and the gloves stayed up till he picked them from the sunbeam.

But Saint Patrick did just that, whether it was that he was half blind from old age (and much reading with not too bright lamps) or careless about gloves because at that moment caring only for God.

If gravity means a blind necessity without exceptioins, also a man will never float in the air.

But Simon Magus on the evil side did that until St Peter's prayers brought him down (without killing him), and if you will believe it, on the good side too you have St Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorian priests (of course the early Lutherans would have said he was on the evil side, because celebrating Mass and obeying the Pope), and it embarassed him so much while celebrating Holy Mass that he read funny stories in order to keep his feet or knees on the church floor.

There is another thing to it too, there is Aristotle's law and there is Newton's law. Aristotle's law says things made of heavy matters such as element earth (guess which element dominates in a solid like the pencil) have their natural place in the centre of the universe which is the centre of the earth. When you drop a pencil it goes that way until meeting next obstacle, like the floor. Falling is the natural movement since the movempent to the natural place. Newton's law is quite another theory: every mass (as defined with volume * density) exercises on every other mass an influence of attraction, directly proportional to its own greatness, inversely proportional to the square of the distance. So if an object heavier than earth were close enough, we would be floating up to it, and that object would be the new down for us - and for the poor over-dropped pencil too!

But the most important question is whether laws are necessities. Like it is necessarily true that the squares of consecutive whole numbers differ by consecutive odd numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4 have by necessity the squares 1, 4, 9, 16, which necessarily differ by the odd numbers 3, 5, 7. Is either of the laws of gravity (Newton's or Aristotle's) a necessity like that? And if it were even so, would that mean the levitation of a bishop's gloves or a priest's whole person are impossible? Or do the laws work only until something interfers, as the floor modifies the fall of the pencil, and are angels as much as floors among the things qualified to interfere with gravity? Not to mention God himself?

Or are laws such as any correct one of gravity some kind of rules by which the angels ruling matter play some kind of tetris? A game no doubt equilibristic and they do it better than us, but which they as well as we can interrupt for a reason, like, in the case of the angels, admiring the devotion of a mere man to their and his and our Lord? Not to mentioin abeying a direct order by Him?

What the right definition of "natural law" is, and what kind of things can interfere with its working, only material or spiritual too, will not be dicovered by dropping a pencil on the floor for however many times you do it.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BiJ / Limay
September 4th, 2012

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