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Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Health, Pseudoscience, Skepticism, Teaching | 3 comments

Fertility, Disease, and Werewolves

This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the undergraduate and graduate students in my Science vs. Pseudoscience course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Pseudoscience.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular pseudoscience topic, as well as run a booth on-campus to help reach people physically about the topic.

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Fertility, Babies, Disease, and Werewolves by Cathlina Smith

What do these three things have in common, you may be asking? It turns out each of these is connected via false information to the moon being full.

Everyone comes into this world the same way. We are all created from a mother and a father. Conception happens every minute of the day. There is an old wives tale about conception being more prevalent on full moons and love being higher during a full moon. Even in movies, there is talk about the love during a full moon. Astrologists believe this is due to a woman’s cycle closely resembling the moon’s cycle. However, not everyone is the same on their cycle because otherwise we would have every woman PMSing at the full moon each month and that would be the end of the world as we know it. There is a species of animal that does seem to repopulate with the changes of the moon and that is coral, which uses the moons cues through photoreceptors as to when other corals are spawning. But does this also apply to humans? Dr. Jonas believed that a woman can get pregnant during her cycle with the moon and a bunch of other astrological rubbish. Not only can she conceive a baby, she can also get the gender of the baby she wants! What a win! The so called “scientific findings” he portrayed are still believed today, and it will only cost you the low fee of $250 US dollars. However, he hasn’t put anything in any scientific journals. With a 99% success rate, one would think this would be of great importance for all the couples who so desperately wish to conceive. Unfortunately, the reason nothing has been published is because all of it is made up. The scientific reality is that there has never been anything proven. Shame on you, Dr. Jonas, for stealing people’s money!

The other myth is that more babies are born during a full moon. No one really knows how this started but many people believe the full moon has such an effect on the physiology of humans. Labor nurses will brace themselves for full moons “knowing” it is going to bring labor on in full-term pregnant woman. There is some garbage out there with some tree hugging hippies that says that there is a connection. Of, course, these are the kind of people that give birth out in the woods to be closer to Mother Nature so I wouldn’t take much stock in what they say anyways. Some people called “scientists” (whoever they are) wanted to take a look at such assertions about the full moon and giving birth. In a study conducted in 1987, no such relationship was found. When a baby is ready to be born, it will come out into the world. Sometimes medical doctors need to step in but the moon really does not play that big of a role in people coming into this world.

Aside from fertility and babies being born, the full moon has been through some controversy when it comes to certain diseases. Epilepsy, for example, is said to produce more seizures during a full moon. Epilepsy has gotten a bad rap over the years because in the past people really didn’t understand it and many said the person suffered from lunacy or even demonic possession. Many people started to believe that the moon was the cause of seizures due to the lunar tides and the gravitational pull. A book was published that claimed by a psychiatrist to have new scientific evidence that the moon really does affect us as people and it does discuss the effects on seizures. When scientists really decide to look at the effects, it was discovered that the frequency of epileptic seizures during the full moon was actually less than at other time. The moon was happy to hear it wasn’t causing seizures in people.

When discussing full moon issues, one must always discuss werewolves. They are fun to talk about and daydream about. I often think “Who would I go after if I was a werewolf?” Movies are full of them and even television shows display the awesomeness that is the werewolf. Most of us believe it to be just supernatural, but there are some who can’t distinguish reality from fantasy and truly do believe werewolves exist or that they are a werewolf. Most of these people probably also believe in astrology, bigfoot, vampires, and ghosts so think about that when someone says they believe in werewolves. Could there really be werewolves? Wouldn’t there be more sightings of them? There is a disease that produces wolf-like hair and back when the “freak-show” was a big part of the circus, these people were often portrayed as part human and part wolf.  These people were often feared as werewolves and often mocked. These days we tend to better accept people and use science to help us better understand these conditions. To date, there has been no scientific evidence of werewolves because a wolf/human could not exist due to the pairing of the DNA.

Why do people believe in these sorts of myths? It could be because reality gets so mundane that we have to create things in order to make it more exciting. We often look at the full moon and hope that there is more to it. We look to media and other exciting tales and folklore hoping that they hold some truth in the full moon myths and fall into traps of fallacies. In the case of fertility, we hear the term “doctor” and have been brought up to automatically believe in doctors, to never question them. We often believe things that are not true and are too lazy to take a look at the hard core scientific evidence that debunks these myths. When people do that, the myths continue to get passed from generation to generation. Even when trying to tell people the truth, they often don’t want to listen to reason and often stick to their own wrong beliefs. Perhaps someday, people can look at these myths as fun and not take any real notion that they are true.

  • RoseAnne Mussar

    So we start with “every woman PMSing at the same time would end the world as we know it”, and end with “we often believe things that aren’t true and are too lazy to take a look at the evidence”. How ironic. Well here’s the truth fellas – most women don’t need hormones to put them in a pissy mood. Having to put up with crap-spewing idiots usually does it. (Let the apologism, rationalization and flaming begin!)

    • http://www.caleblack.com/ Caleb W. Lack

      If you’d paid attention, you would see that this was written by one of my female students, RoseAnne, not one of us “fellas.”

  • Shatterface

    Even in movies, there is talk about the love during a full moon. Astrologists believe this is due to a woman’s cycle closely resembling the moon’s cycle.

    The link between the moon and romance might be as simple as the fact you can see at night during a full moon.

    In pre-street light times the moon offered a chance to meet up with a loved one without drawing attention to yourselves by carrying a flaming torch.