Not Loony, Just Human

Is it just me or is there some kind of cultural connection amongst humans between the moon and insanity? I first noticed it when I learned the phrase “esta en la luna” (in the moon) in Spanish which is a way of saying absent-minded. I then made the connection between “Luna” and “lunatic” and “loonies” and began to wonder. It’s not really something I’ve researched but maybe some sociologist or anthropologist out there knows what I’m talking about… or it could be pure coincidence.

Even so, I would find such a social connotation of the moon ironic when you take into account Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. On “Paranormal Schmaranormal” a post which my co-author wrote on my blog Stefano left this comment:

There are not only crazy Guys that are talking about the existence of UFOs.

I get it. Edgar Mitchell believes in UFOs. That’s nice.

Now, I have great respect for all astronauts. It takes brains, it takes physical prowess, it takes hours of training, and it takes guts to strap yourself to a giant can of rocket fuel and blast yourself 384,000 km away from the Earth with faith in Newton to get you there safely.

I respect that.

But, just because you did all that doesn’t mean that you can say “there are pink dancing unicorns on Neptune” and have them pop into existence. If you (the astronaut) or you (the person believing the astronaut can do that) believe that authority makes it so then I don’t respect that.

And, on the other hand just because an authority says something which we think of as outrageous does not mean it is untrue. If the authority can point me to observations published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal which shows dancing pink unicorns and I can replicate the experiment on my own if I get access to a big enough telescope and swing it around to Neptune and see dancing pink unicorns then I’m convinced.

Where is Edgar Mitchell’s evidence? He says he believes. Again, that doesn’t make it true. He says he has eye-witness testimony, but eye-witnesses can be wrong.

I once saw three UFOs drifting above the buildings of my hometown on a warm, sunny morning. Visibility conditions were good. I wasn’t under the influence of drugs, caffeine, alcohol, catnip, or sleep deprivation. I suddenly noticed with excitement how they looked like saucers straight out of films like The Day the Earth Stood Still… that is until the saucers drifted into a better angle and I realized I had been viewing three jets flying in formation edge on.

I’m not crazy. I just live on the verge of madness because it’s more interesting. But, I was mistaken. If I hadn’t kept watching perhaps I would have remained mistaken.

Does Edgar Mitchell have anything else to offer other than Stefano’s assertion that he’s not senile?


You don’t have to be a lunatic to be mistaken. You just have to be human. Just because you went to the moon doesn’t make you any less human, any less subject to believing something that is crazy. It just makes you kinda cooler than other humans in one regard.

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  1. Joy Wang
    July 31, 2008 at 5:42 pm —

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, going to the moon was this BIG fantasy that drew some very far-fetched and “lunatical” plots, not limited to lifting by hot air balloon or deck chairs attached to a flock of birds… Most people thought that these people who dreamed of going to the moon were deranged, crazy, and needed some help, to put it delicately. Thus the word luna(moon)tic. That’s one explanation I’ve heard.’s etymology traces it to the 13th and 14th centuries where it was used to describe insane people that were believed to be afflicted by the stages of the moon.

    Argument from authority is one of the greatest fallacies in the world. Just cos you quoted whatever Einstein said doesn’t make it true. Just because a renowned astronaut like Edgar Mitchell said so doesn’t make it correct. Or at least, no more correct than if I said it to you. If I told you that I had seen polka-datted unicorns roaming around the suface of Io, would you believe me? No. So what’s the difference if Edgar Mitchell says it? I respect Mitchell’s achievements as an astronaut. And I respect his right to say that there are UFOs that have been visiting us or whatever else. But I will not believe his statements on the account that he was an astronaut, because his qualifications as an astronaut lend nothing to the veracity or falsity of his statement.

  2. Joy Wang
    July 31, 2008 at 5:44 pm —

    You wouldn’t *happen* to have seen Phil Plait’s post on the subject, would you?

  3. August 1, 2008 at 12:04 am —

    *searches brain*

    I recall reading several articles on it and having my mum tell me about it from her Chinese news source… I THINK I may have glanced at Phil’s post but I’ve been away from my computer a lot recently so I’m not sure.

  4. Scientist Sam
    August 1, 2008 at 7:26 am —

    Every year, I have my senior High School students put the test (“One test is worth a thousand expert opinions”) to what “Everybody” knows is true – that more babies are born on a full moon than at any other time. I have nurse friends who insist that this is true. We plot the birthdays of every student I have ever had against the dates of the full moon the month they were born, and guess what? “Everybody” isn’t that smart. The chances of being born at a full moon are exactly the same as being born on any other day of the month. A beautiful, flat graph.

  5. Pato2747
    August 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm —

    In my town, there’s a story that, in the sixties, 50 people reported 3 “UFOs” that flew over a bank. I truly want to research it, but I can’t find anybody who was actually there or knows anything about it.

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