It’s a full moon today and I saw an article that I wanted to pass along. I’ve blogged about moon phases before, but I fear that this story will never go away as long as there are people on the earth and a moon in the sky above.
SciAm.com today posted a short article discussing the “Lunar Effect” and asks “Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?” Too lazy to go read it? I’ll cut to the chase for you: ABSOLUTELY NOT.
The notion that people are affected by the moon phases, and spcifically the full moon, has a couple of key flaws:
1. No evidence beyond anecdotal testimonials and folk-lore
2. No scientific plausibility
Even if you dismiss the plausibility and believe that there are all kinds of magical and mysterious things that science can’t explain, you can’t ignore the fact that there is NO EVIDENCE. I’ll say that again. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A LUNAR EFFECT ON PEOPLE.
I don’t care that your aunt is a nurse and says that “Everybody knows that hospital visits are higher on full moons.”, or that your cousin who is a cop says that crime rates are higher, or that your Father works at Walmart and notices that the crazies all go shopping during a full moon. Those are anecdotal opinions, not facts. Sorry. People percieve all kinds of things that aren’t real. In this case, people who believe in the effect, reinforce their beliefs with what they experience, regardless of the actual facts.
Still don’t believe me? Well look for yourself. Research it online. If you find a source that claims an effect, look for a source that debunks it and vice versa. The data from the best studies which look at the longest periods of time and control for all the extraneous variables show NO CORRELATION between human behavior and any moon phase. None. Zilch. Notta. Zero. There is really no room for opinion on this. It has been researched to death and there is only one possible conclusion.
Why do I harp on this? Because I am very interested in the way people think and reason, or in most cases, fail to think and don’t apply reason. The lunar effect is a simple example of a commonly held belief that has been debunked for decades, yet is considered to be fact by many many people. I recognize that mainstream media is not rigorous (or even interested) in reporting when science can not confirm an interesting phenomenon or when a widely held belief is debunked. It just isn’t interesting to the audience. In this case however, the data is very straight foward, and the message could not be simpler, yet the fact is that most people either ignore the facts or don’t believe them. What I find really interesting (and frightening) is that if people can’t give up a belief in something so inocuous as this, it’s no wonder that they refuse to question deeper held beliefs such as those concerning religion, politics, & racism. It seems to me that it’s this fundamental inability to think reasonably and recognize cognitive errors that leads to many of the major problems in the world today. Any thoughts?
If you want to do some research, just Google “lunar effect human”. You only get 7 million hits. Shouldn’t take more than an hour or two. The wikipedia article has a pretty good list of studies, and the Skeptics Dictionary is OK too.