Stop Blaming the Moon for Everything
Author: UCLA : Contact: Stuart Wolpert - firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: 2015-04-01 : (Rev. 2019-11-12)
Synopsis and Key Points:
Article looks at the absence of lunar influence on human affairs and lists some popular lunar myths.
The full moon has been linked to crime, suicide, mental illness, disasters, accidents, birthrates, fertility, and werewolves, among other things.
The study illustrates how intelligent and otherwise reasonable people develop strong beliefs that, to put it politely, are not aligned with reality.
The Moon is defined as Earth's only natural satellite. Although not the largest natural satellite in the Solar System, among the satellites of major planets it is the largest relative to the size of the object it orbits (its primary). It is the second-densest satellite among those whose densities are known (after Jupiter's satellite Io).
"It must be a full moon" is a common refrain when things appear more hectic than usual. The moon is even blamed when things get crazy at hospital emergency rooms or birth wards. "Some nurses ascribe the apparent chaos to the moon, but dozens of studies show that the belief is unfounded," said Jean-Luc Margot, a UCLA professor of planetary astronomy.
Of course, the moon does not influence the timing of human births or hospital admissions, according to new research by Margot that confirms what scientists have known for decades. The study illustrates how intelligent and otherwise reasonable people develop strong beliefs that, to put it politely, are not aligned with reality.
The absence of a lunar influence on human affairs has been demonstrated in the areas of automobile accidents, hospital admissions, surgery outcomes, cancer survival rates, menstruation, births, birth complications, depression, violent behavior, and even criminal activity, Margot writes. His study was published online by the journal Nursing Research.
Even though a 40-year-old UCLA study demonstrated that the timing of births does not correlate in any way with the lunar cycle, the belief in a lunar effect has persisted. A 2004 study in a nursing journal, for example, suggested that the full moon influenced the number of hospital admissions in a medical unit in Barcelona, Spain. But Margot identified multiple flaws in the data collection and analysis of the 2004 research. By re-analyzing the data, he showed that the number of admissions was unrelated to the lunar cycle.
"The moon is innocent," Margot said.
So why do the erroneous beliefs live on in spite of the evidence?
Margot cited what scientists refer to as the "confirmation bias" - people's tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms their beliefs and ignore data that contradict them. When life is hectic on the day of a full moon, many people remember the association because it confirms their belief. But hectic days that do not correspond with a full moon are promptly ignored and forgotten because they do not reinforce the belief.
Margot said the societal costs of flawed beliefs can be enormous. In just one current example, the recent measles outbreak appears to have been triggered by parents' questionable beliefs about the safety of the measles vaccine.
"Vaccines are widely and correctly regarded as one of the greatest public health achievements, yet vaccine-preventable diseases are killing people because of beliefs that are out of step with scientific facts," Margot said.
A willingness to engage in evidence-based reasoning and admit that one's beliefs may be incorrect will produce a more accurate view of the world and result in better decision-making, Margot said. "Perhaps we can start by correcting our delusions about the moon, and work from there," he said.
Different names for a full moon according to the month of the year it occurs.
|Names of The Full Moon|
|January||Wolf or Old Moon|
|February||Snow or Hunger Moon|
|March||Crow, Crust, Sap, or Worm Moon|
|April||Pink, Grass, Egg or Fish Moon|
|May||Flower or Milk Moon|
|June||Rose, Strawberry, or Hot Moon|
|July||Thunder or Buck Moon|
|August||Sturgeon, Grain, or Green Corn Moon|
|September||Harvest, Barley, Corn, or Fruit Moon|
|October||Hunter's, Dying or Travel Moon|
|November||Frost or Beaver Moon|
|December||Cold or Long Nights Moon|
Moon Facts and Statistics
- The moon's gravity pulls at the Earth, causing predictable rises and falls in sea levels known as tides.
- A study in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior in 2004 found no connection between epileptic seizures and the full moon, even though some patients believe their seizures to be trigged by the full moon.
- The moon's gravitational pull may have been key to making Earth a livable planet by moderating the degree of wobble in Earth's axial tilt.
- The full moon has been linked to crime, suicide, mental illness, disasters, accidents, birthrates, fertility, and werewolves, among other things.
- Researchers examined 150,999 records of emergency room visits to a suburban hospital. Their study, reported in American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 1996, found no difference at full moon vs. other nights.
- In examining over 100 studies, Kelly et al. found that "phases of the moon accounted for no more than 3/100 of 1 percent of the variability in activities usually termed lunacy" (1996: 18).
- In 2007 several police departments in the U.K. added extra officers on full-moon nights in an effort to cope with presumed higher crime rates.
For more about how cognitive biases influence our beliefs, Margot recommends Thomas Gilovich's How We Know What Isn't So (1991).
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