The Scientific Ignorance of Stasia Bliss – Part III: Sun and Moon
Note: This is the third installment in an article series debunking the massive amount of pseudoscientific claims made by Stasia Bliss. This time, we examine her writings on the sun and the moon. For more posts in this series, see the introduction post here.
Previously, I have taken apart the irrational claims made by Stasia Bliss on cystic fibrosis and genetically modified foods. Her assertion that individuals with cystic fibrosis have themselves to blame because they eat too much acidic foods and have too much negative emotions was conclusively disproved because cystic fibrosis is cause by a gene mutation and the human body have multiple, powerful systems for maintaining acid-base homeostasis. As was also shown, Bliss quoted a paper about microRNAs in rice out of context to attempt to show that genetically modified foods were harmful. In reality, the same microRNAs that can be found in genetically modified crops can also be found in conventional crops.
This post will investigate her claims about how the sun and moon affect humans. Those claims are spread out over the at least five different posts she has written about these two bodies.
As we will see, Bliss recommends people to star into the sun. However, this is very dangerous as it can damage your eyes and even make you go blind. She claims that it isn’t harmful if you stare in the early morning or late evening, but information from NASA disproves that. She also falsely claims that NASA supports sun-gazing, that the pineal gland give you telepathic powers, the ability to astral project and the ability for unaided human flight. She also peddles the dangerous myth that you can survive without food as long as you stare into the sun. She upholds Hira Ratan Manek as a person who has done this, but he has been exposed as a fraud: he does eat solid food. In the meantime, she also manages to promote common myths asserted by climate change denialists, claim that the alleged faith healer John of God is “filled with unconditional love and healing energy” and share her belief that the sun is actually conscious.
Sun-gazing does not give you superpowers
In her first post, Bliss credulously buys into what is known as sun-gazing or sun-eating. This is the idea that humans can survive without eating food simply by staring into the sun and that this practice makes physical disease disappear. In reality, food is vital for human life and not eating for an extended period of time just means that the body starts to starve. Staring directly into the sun can also cause severe eye damage. Contrary to Bliss, NASA has not supported the notion that sun-gazing enables people to use telepathy or unaided flight. Hira Ratan Manek, the person Bliss upholds as an example of someone who has started into the sun for years without eating, has been exposed as a fraud.
NASA has not confirmed that sun-gazing gives super-human abilities
Throughout her post, Bliss claims that NASA has confirmed that sun-gazing allows humans to survive without food. However, NASA has confirmed no such thing. Indeed, a search on their website for “Hira Ratan Manek” (the person Bliss claims has been studied and supported by NASA) gives no hits whatsoever. When you search for “Hira Ratan Manek” and “NASA” on Google, all you get are crank scientist linking to each other without any primary source. Bliss attempts to provide a rationalization for this in a later post (discussed below), but as we shall see, this rationalization will backfire spectacularly.
Ancient or popular does not mean true or beneficial
An overarching theme among the writings of Stasia Bliss is that she often appeals to the notion that a certain quack treatment or crank belief is very old or very popular. However, popularity does not mean accuracy (that would be the fallacy of argumentum ad populum) and the fact that people to refuse to give up a false belief does not make that belief true (claiming that the fact that a claim is old makes it true is the fallacy known as appeal to tradition or argumentum ad antiquitatem).
Dangers of staring directly into the sun
If you stare directly into the sun, you can damage your eyes very badly and even become blind. Bliss tries to avoid taking this problem seriously by stating that if you just look at the sun near the dawn or dusk, there is no risk. However, while the intensity of the light may decrease somewhat, that does not mean that the light spectrum from the sun suddenly change. The eyes are still going to be hit by UV radiation, just not as intense as during the day. Here is the explanation by NASA (Chou, 1997):
The only time that the Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is during a total eclipse, when the Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques. Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn, even though illumination levels are comparable to twilight.
Dismissing the negative health effects of an activity the way Bliss does is enormously dangerous. It really shows that she is not taking those risks seriously. Instead of providing credible information to her readers, so is pushing an ideology.
Humans cannot survive without food, even if they stare into the sun
Humans are chemoorganoheterotrophs. That means that they chemical compounds as their energy source (to drive cellular processes), organic compounds as the source for reducing equivalents (biological reactions often need electrons) and organic substances as their carbon source (to build biomass). Bliss claims that humans can survive without food if they just stare into the sun regularly. The most well-known example of a multicellular organism surviving on the energy from the sun is plants. They have chloroplasts that use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. However, humans do not have chloroplasts and can thus not use the energy from the sun to fulfill its energy need.
Although a single species of sea slugs called eastern emerald elysia (Elysia chlorotica) has the ability to live in symbiosis with the chloroplasts from the algae it eats (Rumpho et al. 2008), humans have not been able to sequester chloroplasts from its food for such a use. Thus, humans cannot use the energy of the sun to sustain themselves. Humans are able to survive indirectly due to the sun, as the sun provides energy for the plants that in turn provide energy for animals. Despite this, anyone who states that humans can survive directly on nothing but energy from the sun has not mastered basic biology.
But even if we assume, for the same of argument, that humans could use the energy of the sun as an energy source, there is still the problem of getting reducing equivalents and carbon. Since carbon dioxide is a human waste product, that compound is not being used as a carbon source. So if humans who allegedly can survive on nothing but the sun do not use food or carbon dioxide as a carbon source, where are they getting their carbon? From where do these people get their reducing equivalents?
So far, these questions have not been addressed by proponents of the ridiculous notion that humans can survive without food by just staring into the sun. Thus, there is little reason to take their claims seriously. Bliss does attempt to provide one mechanism for how humans could survive on the sun alone later in her post, but as we will see below, that mechanism cannot account for how the human body can use the sun as an energy source, let alone a source of reducing equivalents or carbon.
Hira Ratan Manek has been exposed as a fraud and admitted to eating
In the movie Eat The Sun (directed by Peter Sorcher), Hira Ratan Manek is secretly photographed while eating solid food. When the crew confronts him, he tries to manipulate his way out of the situation by asserting that he was only posing with solid food because some person gave him 100 USD to do it. However, he could not produce this 100 bill upon request and he later sent a letter to the makers of the film admitting to eating solid food and apologizing (shown in the end of the movie).
Sunlight does not charge the retinohypothalamic tract
Earlier, we established that humans cannot use the sun directly as a source of energy, reducing equivalents or carbon. However, Bliss rejects modern science and has proposed the following mechanism:
During your first 3 months of practice, the sun’s energy is moving through the eyes and charging the hypothalamus tract, says those who have studied this technique and used it. The hypothalamus tract is the pathway to the rear of the retina which leads to the brain. The brain then, over time, becomes activated by the energy supply being received by the sun.
So humans can use the sun directly as an energy source because it “charges the hypothalamus tract”? In reality, the tract is called the retinohypothalamic tract and it functions in the external regulation of circadian rhythms. It cannot convert solar energy to energy forms that can be utilized by the human body.
As a side note, the human brain is always active. Bliss repeats the false claim that sun-gazing “activates” the brain in a later post (see below for a more detailed refutation).
Effects of sun-gazing bares the hallmark of placebo effects
When Bliss talks about the supposed effects of sun-gazing (besides telepathy and unaided flight), what she describes has all the hallmarks of being due to placebo effects:
You will first experience a relief of mental tension and worry, since most worry is fueled by the energy received by the foods we eat. […] Another benefit early on is said to be an increase in confidence and an ability to easily solve your problems, as you are without tension. Everyone has at least a bit of psychosis, but during the first few months of sun gazing practice, it is reported that these attitudes go away and a positive nature gracefully replaces the old persona full of fears. […] Reports on sun gazing say that the bad qualities normally associated with any person will gradually disappear and good qualities will remain, explaining that ‘bad qualities’ only develop in the absence of sunlight. Bad qualities like anger, fear, jealousy, lust – are said to disappear – and be replaced by a certain confidence and ‘spiritual knowing’ that senses more purely the heart of an issue.
In other words, improvements in subjective symptoms that we already know is susceptible to placebo effects. Bliss also claims that sun-gazing also cures psychosis, yet a quick search on Pub Med does not return a single scientific publications supporting such a claim.
Diseases are not due to a deficiency in color
Human disease are the result of disease-causing organisms or pathological changes to the body. Bliss, however, rejects mainstream science in this areas as well when she writes that:
At 3-6 months of gazing, the studies show that physical diseases start to disappear. They say that by the time one is gazing 30 minutes per day (building up 10 seconds per day) all the colors of the sun will have reached the brain. Color therapists attribute their healing of certain diseases to flooding the body and brain with the particular color that is lacking – depending on the ailment. For example, in liver disease, the color green is deficient. The kidneys need red, and the heart, yellow.
Studies? What studies? Bliss does not cite any such studies and (based on her cavalier attitude to scientific studies in previous writings) I doubt they even exist. Claiming that “studies show” without citing those studies is a typical feature of pseudoscience.
Furthermore, all the colors of the sun (presumably Bliss means all the colors in visible light) reach the brain normally. Otherwise you would not see them.
The pineal gland does not enable telepathy, astral projection or unaided human flight
The pineal gland is a structure in the brain that produces certain hormones such as melatonin, which is relevant for the regulation of circadian rhythms. It has no special powers, it is just a hormone-producing gland in the brain. Bliss, on the other hand, have a few other ideas about its function:
The pineal gland is activated more and more by this walking procedure. Intellect is said to increase, along with memory. The pineal gland has navigational and psychic capabilities, meaning telepathy, the possibility of flight… now we are getting somewhere! Have you ever thought you would like to have your body in more than one place at a time? Well, sun-gazing is said to be the magical key to such abilities.
Is Bliss seriously claiming that the pineal gland enable telepathy, astral projection and unaided human flight? Seriously? There seem to be no end to the irrational nonsense that she is spewing.
Solar flares are not related to evolution of cognition
In her second post, Bliss tries to link solar flares to the evolution of consciousness. In her attempt to do this, she makes a number of erroneous claims about heat, frequencies, vibrations, human evolution and cognition. In addition, she casually spout common global warming denialist claims and promotes the alleged faith healer John of God. Finally, she abuses scientific research on recent human evolution and the Flynn effect.
Solar flares do not damage the health of humans on earth
NASA has feature on the impact of strong solar flares on their website. Here is what they write about it (NASA; 2013):
Solar activity is indeed currently ramping up toward what is known as solar maximum, something that occurs approximately every 11 years. However, this same solar cycle has occurred over millennia so anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through such a solar maximum with no harm.
This is not to say that space weather can’t affect our planet. The explosive heat of a solar flare can’t make it all the way to our globe, but electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles certainly can. Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards
So the effects of solar flares are the possible disruption of signal transmission from space to earth.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States has written a short scientific overview of solar phenomena such as sun spots, sun flares, coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic storms. Here is what the EPA has to say about the potential health effects of these events (EPA, 2012):
Potential heath effects
Solar flares and coronal mass ejections result in the release of radiation across the spectrum, from x-rays to light waves to fast-moving protons to plasma. We know that satellites can be affected (even made non-functional) and astronauts need to be aware of the risk and seek shelter during these storms. Astronauts on the Space Station receive increased exposure during these solar phenomena. The energetic particles from a flare or CME would be dangerous to an astronaut on a mission to the Moon or Mars. As for sunspots, they are merely cooler regions of the sun and do not cause any particular harm.
Out of all of the Sun’s activities, it is actually the Sun’s UV rays that pose the greatest risk to human health.
In other words, the EPA does not list any particular health consequences of solar flares on humans.
Bliss claims that solar flares cause headaches, ringing in the ears, inability to think straight, losing words mid-sentence, exhaustion, nausea, indigestion, changes in appetite, and anxiety? However, according to NASA and EPA, there is no evidence that solar flares causes these conditions.
Solar activity has decreased during the last 50 years
Out of the blue, Bliss starts spouting claims that are commonly heard from climate change denialists: there is warming on other plants and global warming is cause by the sun. In reality, only a few bodies in the solar system has been observed to be warming, a lot of planets like are either cooling (Uranus) or not warming (Mars and Jupiter), the warming on some planets are understood and known not to be the result of increased solar activity. Finally, solar activity has decreased during the last 35 years and for the last 50 years, there is no practically significance change (Cook, 2010; Leahy, 2013).
According to scientists, the entire solar system is heating up, not just our planet. […] As the sun increases in heat and energy, the field or magnetic grid around the Earth and every human is affected. Yes, there are physical affects like global warming, and the like, but apparently there are also psychological and what some would call psycho-spiritual affects.
Bliss abuses physical concepts such as heat, frequency and vibrations
Most of the time a non-scientist starts talking about things like “frequency” and “vibrations” in areas were they are not applicable, you can bet it is part of an effort to support quackery:
What is heat? Heat signifies a raise in frequency, a raise in vibration, if you will. Vibration is intricately tied to our consciousness and the way we experience and perceive life.
No, heat is a form of energy transfer. The related concept of thermal energy is the sum of the potential and kinetic energy that influence the temperature of a system. The transfer of thermal energy does not mean an increase in frequency of vibrations and vibrations is not relevant for consciousness.
Bliss is clearly using these scientific concepts to give her pseudoscientific nonsense the appearance of scientific validity. However, she will not fool anyone who has the slightest familiarity with these scientific concepts.
John of God is not “filled with unconditional love and healing energy”
In a similar move to the claims about global warming, Bliss mentions John of God in a favorable light. Presumably, she is not aware that he has been exposed when she writes that:
There are some individuals who we would consider to be filled with unconditional love and healing energy, like Amma, John of God and other saints and teachers, and those who are truth speakers like the Dalai Lama. Few would considered many alive today as embodiments of the cosmic oneness.
John of God is an alleged faith healer who claims to be able to channel the spirits of dozens of different medical doctors. He also engages in a technique called “psychic surgery”, which The Skeptic’s Dictionary describes as follows (Carroll, 2010):
Psychic “surgery” is a type of non-surgery performed by a non-medical healer. The healer fakes an incision by running a finger along the patient’s body, apparently going through the skin without using any surgical instruments. The healer pretends to dig his hands into the patient’s innards and pretends to pull out ‘tumors’. Using trickery, the healer squirts animal blood from a hand-held balloon while discarding items such as chicken livers and hearts. The patient then goes home to die, if he or she was really dying, or to live if there was nothing seriously wrong in the first place.
Perhaps the most tragic thing about faith healers is when people they claim to have successfully treated avoid modern medicine and instead have their prognosis worsen considerably. Consider the case of Lisa (Gorski, 2010), a women with breast cancer. Lisa refused to remove her breasts and start chemotherapy. Instead, she turned to John of God and got a nasal probe. A while after, she had a biopsy and it showed that her breast cancer was now in stage IV, meaning that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body and was now considered incurable.
Solar flares do not trigger evolution of human consciousness
If solar flares are responsible for a trigger in the evolution of consciousness as many are saying, how quickly does this occur and have we already started? Depending on the frequency of the waves generated by solar storms and the intensity at which they hit our planet, we could see some changes happening spontaneously, within moments, and others spread out over even just one generation.
In reality, evolution is the shift in allele frequencies in population over time. Thus, a single individual does not evolve and the process of evolution with regards to cognitive facilities certainly does not occur within moments. Presumably, Bliss is exploring poetic license to the full when she writes about “evolution of consciousness” (meaning it to be e. g. change in beliefs), but it bares no resemblance to evolutionary biology. However, she subtly changes the meaning of the phrase from something akin to “change in beliefs” to actual recent human evolution.
Bliss abuse scientific research on recent human evolution
Bliss cites University of Madison researcher John Hawks in an effort to prop up her delusions. In reality, all that Hawks is saying is that recent human evolution has been relatively rapid. This does not mean that it occurs within moments or just one generation. Rather, “rapid” means rapid in a geological context e. g. on the scale of tens of thousands of years.
Bliss abuse the Flynn Effect
Bliss continue to misunderstand and misuse scientific research when she starts talking about the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect is the observed increase in average IQ scores over time (around 3 points per decade). Proposed scientific explanations for this effect includes increase in duration of schooling, familiarity with the test, more stimulating environment, better nutrition and a reduction in infectious diseases. The Flynn effect is unlikely to be due to evolution as the relevant time period is too small and the selection for intelligence is unlikely to have been sufficiently strong.
Bliss fails to respond to criticism
In her third post on the topic, Bliss attempts to respond to the criticism she received after promoting sun-gazing. As with her “response” to the criticisms of her writings on cystic fibrosis, she fails spectacularly. Instead, she provides a personal anecdote, claim that sun-gazing activates the brain and dismiss the negative health consequences of staring into the sun. Finally, she provides a post hoc rationalization for the fact that she bought into the myth that NASA supports the notion that sun-gazing can make you survive without food.
Expectancy effects and regression to the mean probably explain Bliss’ personal anecdote
Bliss claims that before she started her sun-gazing she had an emotional breakup and moved. This made her feel depressed. After starting sun-gazing for just 10 seconds, she claimed that her depressed mood vanished. During the first few weeks, she claims that sun-gazing has made her full faster than before.
However, just because B happens after A does not mean that A caused B. The roosters crows and then sunrise occurs, but that does not mean that the roosters’ crows cause the sunrise.
In addition, all components of her personal anecdote can be explained by expectancy effects and regression to the mean. Expectancy effects can explain her feeling of getting full faster than before. This is because she has been feed and eagerly accepted the idea that sun-gazing allows you to live without food. I hesitate to speculate, but models like Bliss may be subject to severe requirements not to gain weight and so the notion of being able to survive without food might be very tempting for her. Regression to the mean may play a role as humans usually get better psychologically after a breakup and the stress from moving usually declines after settling in. That means that the observed improvements may be the natural course of the situation and not due to staring into the sun.
The sun is a star and does not have a consciousness
The sun is a star and fuses hydrogen to helium and so on up to carbon. It is just a large body of chemical elements with a low atomic mass. The sun does not have a brain and therefore not a consciousness. Bliss ignores all of this when asserting, without any evidence, that:
I remembered how the ancients would call the sun a ‘doorway’, and really started to see why. After a week it seemed that the sun was actually starting to ‘see’ me too, as if some consciousness exists there who became aware of me becoming aware of it.
Since the sun is a non-living celestial body without a brain, it does not have a consciousness.
Our brains are already active
Bliss also falls for a common new age myth about the activity of the brain. In reality, the brain is always active, even when we sleep. When brain scans say that some activity activates a certain brain area, what is really meant is that the activity increases the activity of the brain area above the baseline activity observed in the control situation. If a brain area is completely inactive, that means that it is dead.
According to Hira Ratan Manek, the master sun gazer, our brains need to be ‘activated’ in order to access their fullest potential. We don’t even know what that means until it starts to happen.
The brain is always active. Perhaps a better idea is to avoid taking advice on science from a non-scientist who has been exposed as a fraud?
Bliss dismiss the negative health risks with sun-gazing
Critics pointed out to Bliss that staring into the sun is very dangerous and can damage the eyes and even make you go blind. She “responds” to this criticism by simply repeating the assertions she wrote in her previous blog post:
I have received mixed feedback on the sun gazing article, most of it positive, but many who ridicule and say that people will go blind, hurt themselves and the information is ‘bogus.’ Again, if you follow the proper steps and sun gaze at the correct times, there will be only amazing benefits and joyful experiences in your life
As we saw under the headline “Dangers of staring directly into the sun” above, the sun still emits UV radiation during the sunrise and sunset that hits your eyes. The main difference is that the intensity of the light is lower. That, however, does not change the wavelength profile of the incoming light. By staring into the sun in the early morning or late night, you are still letting UV radiation cause damage to your eyes.
Bliss rationalizes the refutation of the “NASA supports sun-gazing” gambit
Critics also pointed out that NASA has not expressed support for the notion that sun-gazing allows you to survive without food. He rationalizes this fact as follows.
Questions have come to me about NASA’s involvement and questioned the notion that NASA has anything to do with sun gazing or sun gazers. The truth is that Hira Ratan Manek went to NASA originally to get studied. NASA funded the testing done at another university and has since denied any affiliation with it, probably because the information was too controversial and funding that they receive was going to be in jeopardy for saying they had anything to do with sun gazing. That’s okay. It is beside the point.
Bliss provides no evidence whatsoever for this indirect NASA association. Instead, she provides us with a conspiracy theory stating that NASA did not want to be associated with sun-gazing as it was too controversial and would risk their funding. However, this same argument could be applied to the researchers at the university itself. If it is too controversial for NASA and risks funding, why doesn’t it risk funding for the university researchers (who have even less funding available to them)? Bliss does not say.
Supermoon does not affect humans above placebo effects
In her fourth post, Bliss shifts gear and starts posting false information about the moon instead of the sun. Different celestial body, same kind of faulty and pseudoscientific reasoning. She screws up the definition of a supermoon, she asserts that supermoons cause the 2011 Japanese earthquake when there was no supermoon at the time, she repeats the old myth that emergency department volume increases at full moons, and claims that the moon affects the magnetic field around the human body, despite the fact that it is extremely weak.
Supermoon does not necessarily imply a full moon
Bliss cannot even correctly define the astronomical concept of supermoon. A supermoon occurs when the moon is either full or new at the same time as being located at the particular place in its orbit were it is closest to the earth. So both of this things have to be fulfilled for it to be called a supermoon. Here is how Bliss butchers the science:
A ‘super’ full moon occurs when the moon it at it’s closest point in proximity to the earth for that month’s orbit – known as a perigee – so how is it we are getting two in a row? As it turns out – last month’s super moon was most likely an ‘almost super’ full moon.
If the only requirement for a full supermoon was that the moon had to be in the point in its orbit were it is closest to the earth, then we would have a full supermoon approximately once every month (as it takes the moon around one month to complete one orbit around the earth). Bliss is forgetting the first criteria: the moon has to be either full or new in addition to being situated in that orbit location. For a full supermoon, the moon has to be full as well.
Supermoons are not associated with natural disasters
Bliss states that “some sources warn” that a full supermoon cause natural disasters. The examples she puts forwards are things like the earthquake in Japan in 2011. She does not state what sources she is talking about and she makes no effort to evaluate the credibility of those sources. However, she does say that it might be “a coincidence”, but makes no effort to investigate this possibility any further.
According to the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley (2012), the moon does not cause earthquakes:
The dominant perturbation in the earth’s gravitational field generates the semi-diurnal (12 hour) ocean and solid earth tides which are primarily caused by the moon (due to its proximity) and the sun (due to its large mass). No significant correlations have been identified between the rate of earthquake occurrence and the semi-diurnal tides when using large earthquake catalogs.
As it turns out, there was not even a supermoon at the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Astronomer Phil Plait explained the following on March 11 (Plait, 2011):
The Moon was at apogee on March 6, and will be at perigee on March 19. When the earthquake in Japan hit last night, the Moon was about 400,000 km (240,000 miles) away. So not only was it not at its closest point, it was actually farther away than it usually is on average.
So again, this earthquake in Japan had nothing to do with the Moon.
Again, had Bliss made some rudimentary fact checking on this issue she would have saved herself the embarrassment of making such demonstrably false claims.
Full moon has no effect on emergency department volume
It is a cultural ‘saying’ and even partially fact that full moons can induce lunacy. Police departments and emergency rooms get more calls and visits on a full moon than any other day of the calendar month.
Partial fact? How can it be a partial fact?
Sadly, Bliss does not even bother to read her own references. She links an article from the NASA website at the bottom of her post that describe the scientific background of a supermoon. However, further down the page, NASA debunks the common myth that emergency department volume increases during full moons (Phillips, 2012):
Folklore holds that all kinds of wacky things happen under the light of a full Moon. Supposedly, hospital admissions increase, the crime rate ticks upward, and people behave strangely. The idea that the full Moon causes mental disorders was widespread in the Middle Ages. Even the word “lunacy,” meaning “insanity,” comes from the Latin word for “Moon.”
The majority of modern studies, however, show no correlation between the phase of the Moon and the incidence of crime, sickness, or human behavior. The truth is, the Moon is less influential than folklore would have us believe.
So according to NASA, Bliss should stop believing folklore. A similar message comes from research carried out by Thompson and Adams (1996) and they concluded that “The occurrence of a full moon has no effect on ED patient volume, ambulance runs, admissions, or admissions to a monitored unit”.
This case is also a fine example of the selective thinking that plagues some proponents of pseudoscience and quackery: The cite credible scientific sources if they supports some aspect of their claims, but those sources also criticize the overarching claim, just ignore that part. A classic case of confirmation bias.
The different phases of the moon just means a different amount of reflection of sunlight
The moon has a strong effect on our emotional nature and if you are already a sensitive person by nature, or have not learned how to detach from your emotions when necessary, full moons can be particularly vulnerable if not volatile.
In reality, the phases of the moons is a result of how much of the moon surface illuminated by the sun is turned towards us humans on earth. If it is around 100%, then we see a full moon. If it is more like 0%, we get a new moon. There is no evidence that suggests that the moon has any actual differential physiological effect on humans throughout the different lunar phases.
Magnetic fields created by the human body are static and very weak
We have electromagnetic energy as well. Some describe the aura, or field around the body in these terms. It would make sense that we would feel something different around full moons. Those of the pagan and Wicca traditions acknowledge full moon energy as accessible for several days before and several days after, perhaps this is why.
According to Cohen and colleagues (1980) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the strength magnetic field of the human brain ranges from 10-10 to 10-5 Gauss and therefore very weak. The corresponding figure for an ordinary small bar magnet is around 100 Gauss. Since the moon obviously does not affect the magnetic field of a bar magnet, then it cannot affect the magnetic field of a human brain.
Bliss seems to think that there is some electromagnetic interaction going on between the moon and humans. However, the magnetic field around the moon is extremely weak and the moon does not even have a dynamo at its core to be able to produce any kind of strong, durable magnetic field like the earth (Choi, 2013).
Nope, staring at the moon does not give you superpowers either
In the fifth and final post of hers that I am going to examine in this article, Bliss claims that staring at a full supermoon gives you “superman-like qualities”, that alpha waves cause “dissociation with senses” and “deepening of inner awareness”. Finally, she asserts that staring into the moon actually heals eye damage.
Alpha waves are unrelated to “dissociation with senses” and “deepening of inner awareness”
Alpha waves are a type of electric field measures by EEG and they occurred during relaxed states. However, this does not entail any of the claims made by Bliss. Here is what the Skeptic’s Dictionary has to say about quackery abusing the alpha wave concept (Carroll, 2012):
Alpha waves are oscillating electrical voltages in the brain. They oscillate in the range of 7.5-13 cycles per second. Because alpha waves occur in relaxed states such as meditation and under hypnosis, they have been mistakenly identified as desirable. Alpha waves also occur under unpleasant conditions and when one is not relaxed.* They are not a measure of peace and serenity, nor are they indicative of an altered state of consciousness. Alpha waves are indicative of lack of visual processing and lack of focus: the less visual processing and the more unfocused, generally the stronger the alpha waves. If you close your eyes and don’t do any deep thinking or concentrating on vivid imagery, your alpha waves will usually be quite strong.
No evidence that moon-gazing heals the eyes or give superpowers
Bliss claims that moon-gazing heals the eyes and give humans superman-like powers. Yet she provides not a single shred of evidence for this claim. The moon does not emit any light of its own. It just reflects light from the sun, so it is very unlikely that it would have any healing properties. It may be the case that the sun gives Superman his superpowers, but there is no reason to think that moonlight can give superpowers to humans.
Stasia Bliss recommends that people star into the sun for extended periods of time. This is dangerous because staring into the sun causes eye damage and you can even go blind. It does not matter if you look in the early morning or early evening as the intensity may be less but it is still enough to damage your eyes. Also, the sun still emits UV light during these times.
In other words, Bliss is actually doing a lot of harm in her mindless support for sun-gazing (in addition to the many scientifically false claims she made in her five posts).
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References and further reading:
Carroll, R. T. (2010). Psychic “surgery”. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Accessed: 2013-07-05.
Carroll, T. R. (2012). Alpha Waves. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Accessed: 2013-07-06.
Choi, C. Q. (2013). Mystery of Moon’s Magnetic Field Deepens. Scientific American. Accessed: 2013-07-06.
Chou, B. R. (1997). Eye Safety During Solar Eclipses. NASA. Accessed: 2013-07-06.
Cohen, D, Palti, Y, Cuffin, B N, & Schmid, S J. (1980). Magnetic fields produced by steady currents in the body. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 77(3), 1447-1451.
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8 thoughts on “The Scientific Ignorance of Stasia Bliss – Part III: Sun and Moon”
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