Hunters’ Moon

I was jogging through town last evening just after sunset.  Well, jogging is probably a misnomer.  For me, that gait is slightly faster than a brisk walk, but it keeps the heart and lungs working at double-time.  I’m not in a frackin’ race.

There above the oak trees rose the Hunters’ Moon.  Upon commenting on this astronomical observation, my friend Melissa told me about a news story that there is a hunter lost in the Cascades, and I hoped the full moon would bring him some comfort.  He’d still be lost, but at least there would be the comfort of the familiar sight in the sky.

Many, many years ago, I read an article called The Moon was Full and Nothing Happened: A Review of Studies on the Moon and Human Behavior. (1986, Kelly, Ivan; James Rotten & Roger Culver.  Skeptical Inquier) The authors performed a meta-analysis of a large number of studies that examined the relationship between human behavior and the phase of the moon and found no correlation.  They also checked a bunch of studies that claimed to show correlation and they showed how all of those had statistical errors.  Since then, I have seen one statistical study after another showing no relationship between full moons and strange human or animal behavior. 

But that hasn’t stopped people from making the assertion.  I believe it’s because we need there to be a relationship.  We want to feel that connection to the universe.  We are such a communal species that we want to make the cosmos part of our community.  We so much want a personal relationship with the universe, that we’ll invent it if necessary.  It’s not enough to be made, in the words of Carl Sagan, “of star stuff,” we want to hold hands with the stars as well.  I have certainly seen cases where the belief in the efficacy of the Lunar Effect has led to self-fulfilling prophecies.

So while the effect of the full moon would appear to be far more psychological than physical, it’s still a huge part of the human experience.  Just look at the amount of literature on the subject.  And even if the hunter in the Cascades did not take comfort at its presence, I did, and picked up the pace.

2 Responses

  1. I had a friend who was convinced of the full moon effect. I asked her what she thought the mechanism might be. She replied, “well it’s bigger so maybe it has more gravitational pull than a crescent moon.”

    What can you say in the face of such logic?

    Anyway, my own personal thought is that if there WAS any correlation between moon phase and, say, crime, it might be due to the extra light of a full moon allowing greater freedom of movement at night. But that would be the case for days preceding and after a full moon – not just on the day.

  2. When I engage in criminal activities, I always pick moonless nights when I can hide more easily in the dark.

    But that’s just me.

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