Why the Moon made us crazy

It was the lunatic effect that made the Apollo astronauts stark raving mad.

The word "lunatic", from luna, has been used in English since at least the 13th century. Many other languages connect the moon with madness, as Latin lunaticus, French lunatique, Dutch maanziekte etc.

It's evident that the idea is very widespread, and has been for a long time: That the moon affects our minds and bodies, whether it's (from severe to mild) turning us into werewolves, making us crazy or aggressive, or simply making it a little harder to sleep.

Old, widespread wisdom. Is it true? It caught some pseudoscientific wind when Arnold Lieber published The Lunar Effect in 1978 (later republished as How The Moon Affects You). He suggested, among other things, that crime statistics showed a correlation with the moon phases.* Other people who have studied the same data haven't found the correlation. This has not deterred people from making all sorts of connections.
The moon is also ERRONEOUS correlated to all sorts of events such as increased rates of accidents, violent behavior, and criminal activity as well as outcomes for surgery and treatments, menstruation and depression. The belief is strongly ingrained in culture but the data is CONCLUSIVE. There is no controversy here.
- Sharon Hill: A hundred times NO – the moon does not cause a crazy night at the hospital, Doubtful News, March 31, 2015

No controversy indeed. This ought to kill the question. (Of course it won't.)

However, there is one aspect remaining, with such a fascinating possible answer that I'd like to have it stuck in as a PS every time the moon myth is debunked: How did people come up with the idea in the first place?
One intriguing idea for its origins comes to us courtesy of psychiatrist Charles L. Raison, now at Emory University, and several of his colleagues. According to Raison, the lunar lunacy effect may possess a small kernel of truth in that it may once have been genuine.
- Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Lunacy and the Full Moon, Scientific American, February/March 2009

When the Moon made (some of) us crazy (sort of)

Today, our abodes and cities are flooded with artificial light. It's cheap and uncomplicated, we can turn it on most whenever and wherever we like. This is, of course, a historical anomaly, a state of affairs that's been around for a few generations only. Through virtually all of mankind's history, we've depended mostly on natural light. People largely went up with the sun and went to bed when it was too dark to do anything useful.

Then there is "the lesser light to rule the night". In a society where the nights were usually pitch black, in major cities as well as in the country, a full moon on a cloudless sky was a significant source of light. As a direct result, people stayed up far longer in those nights. The sleep deprivation that followed could easily trigger all kinds of erratic behaviour and disorders in people.

That is, briefly, the historical explanation of moon madness. We're not directly affected by the moon and have never been, but in times past we could very well be indirectly affected.

How the Moon doesn't affect us the slightest

The standard "argument" that still, incredibly, goes around is that 1) the Moon causes the tides, and 2) we're mostly made up of water, so of course 3) the Moon ought to affect people as well..?

Of course not. The tides have nothing (well, preciously little) to do with the moon phases; the tide affects the shape of the seas (and to a far lesser degree the shape of the earth and the moon) and not the physical, chemical or "mental" properties of the water; had our oceans been filled with ammonia or molasses we'd still have tides so there's nothing special with H2O; and so on ...

* Lieber also made some far more fantastic claims, such as the major moon-caused quake that would hit California in 1982. That didn't happen; undeterred, Lieber kept the prophecy in later editions, though no year given.

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