The word ‘lunatic’ comes from a Latin association with the word ‘luna’, which means moon. There is some evidence that the word comes from early experience with those who had mental illnesses like bipolar disorder that moved in cycles, similar to the phases of the moon. But in common usage today, a loony could be anyone outside the ‘normal’ order of things, often including those who make decisions outside of hard science. Here I’m talking about all the advocates of alternative medicine, alternative farming practices, and even methods of changing the weather (think orgone).
I’m not saying that any particular practice or beleif is, in fact, crazy. Personally I think many of these alternative practices has some basis in fact, though I reserve judgement on any particular practice until I can ‘see it for myself’. After all, belief in a cure has been proven to change the course of a person’s illness. Instead I am drawn to the idea that the popularity of such alternatives is itself cyclical in nature.
Take, for example, a farmer’s recent use of a ‘hail cannon‘, a device which he believes to break up hail through noise within a certain area. Similar devices using a loud noise such as a cannon or bell to ‘disrupt’ hail formation have been in use at various times, but are currently seeing a marked resurgence. Is this merely evidence of new weather patterns and more farmers taking drastic measures to avoid damages? Or is it one of those things that must cycle in popularity?
Another example is seen in recent research into Stonehenge which reveals at least one purpose for the ancient site as a healing center. Evidently one of the inner rings of stones is a rock called spotted dolomite, which the new study is saying was believed to have healing properties, making the site one of pilgrimage for those who were very ill. The condition of those buried at Stonehenge seems to support this conclusion, though it remains unclear just exactly how the stones were thought to ‘heal’ the sick. Currently, dolomite is sometimes used as a dietary supplement to improve health due to its high concentrations of both calcium and magnesium. Since Stonehenge has been dated to at least 2500 BC in previous studies, making this one of the oldest resurgences in popular health belief that I know of.
So, what does this all mean? Are these alternatives something we will eventually discard, once and for all, when medicine can treat all of our ailments? Will we rely only on 100% proven methods to protect our crops and discourage inclement weather? Will there always be something we can’t quite control, leaving a niche for alternative solutions? I should hope so. A new moon and a dark sky all the time does not appeal to me.