Charleston IL TIME COURIER --- tuesday - jan 14, 1986 --

- It Is a widely held belief that strange things occur when the moon is full.

Late night television tells us that vampires and werewolves prowl under moonlit skies. We know that the words lunatic and lunacy are Derived from luna, the Latin word for moon. And researchers in various fields have suggested that the full moon is responsible for increased instances of alcoholism, automobile accidents, madness, epilepsy, arson, suicide and homicide.

Scientists, however, have now demonstrated that the moon has been unjusily accused.

Writing for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the paranormaI ( CSICOP ) in the Winter of 1985/86 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, authors I.W. Kelly, professor of educational psychology at the University of Saskatchewan and chairman of CSICOP's Astrology Subcommittee, James Rotton, professor of psychology at Florida International University, and Roger Culver, astronomer at Colorado State University, describe their analysis of results from a number of studies that examined the relationship between phases of the moon and abnormal behavior and offer insights into why belief in lunar phases persists.

Using a technique called "meta-analysis," they were able to combine and average the results from the different studies and assess the overall relationship between phases of the moon and human behavior. According to the authors, "A meta-analysis is no better than the studies on which it is based. Of the 23 studies we checked, nearly one-half contained one or more statistical errors. Correcting for the errors in the original reports, we found that there was no consistent relationship between phases of the moon and acts usually described as lunatic."

If the evidence shows that people's behavior is not affected by the moon, why then will policemen, emergency room attendents and bartenders, among others, swear to the veracity of the full moon theory ?

Kelly, Rotton, and Culver suspect that belief in lunar effects can be traced to three factors:

  • slanted media reporting,
  • a lack of understanding of physics and
  • psychological biases.

"Newspapers and other media are in the business of telling people what happened. 'The moon was full and nothing happened,' may be accurate but it is not a very interesting headline," they write. "When one scientist doesn't give them a quotation that can be turned into an interesting headline, reporters can always find an 'expert' who will provide the quota- tion they need."

Many people believe that given the moon's known gravitational effect upon the ocean tides, It is reasonable to assume that since the human body is 80 percent water, the moon can also affect human behavior.

But the mathematics does not support this theory. According to the authors, It can be shown that a mother holding her child will exert 12 million times as much tidal force on the baby as the moon, or a person in a downtown city area will be affected more by the buildings than by the moon.

They go on to explain that a number of cognitive biases contribute to belief in lunar effects.

"Individuals are more likely to notice events that support their beliefs than those that do not.

When something odd happens, what other object is so impressively in view as a full-moon?" Selective attention and recall further contribute to the full moon myth. "Individuals may recall all the full moon nights when something untoward happened while forgetting the uneventful full moon nights and the many more non-full moon nights when they witnessed unusual behavior."

CSICOP, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine was founded in 1976 to provide scientific, objective views of paranormal claims. Members of CSICOP include Isaac Aslmov, Carl Sagan, B.F. Skinner, Stephen Jay Gould, Sidney Hook, and Chairman Paul Kurtz.

Charleston IL TIME COURIER tuesday - jan 14, 1986 --
Newspapers adopting 'astrology disclaimer'

Several U.S newspapers now publish a disclaimer with their astrology columns stating that they have no basis in scientific fact and that they should be read for entertainment only.

The disclaimer is appearing at the request of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal ( CSICOP ). CSICOP, in late 1984, wrote to the editor of every newspaper In the U.S. asking for the disclaimer because of a Gallup poll that showed that belief in astrology among young people had grown from 40 percent in 1978 to 55 per-cent in 1984.

Among those newspapers now carrying a disclaimer are the Indianapolis Star, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Wilmington News Journal, the Mattoon Journal Gazette, the Charleston Times.Courier and the Austin American Statesman.