Prince Charles, proud to be the Enemy of the Enlightenment.

Edzard Ernst has a new book out: Charles, The Alternative Prince: An Unauthorized Biography. I wrote a full book review that will appear in the next issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, but I wanted to give my readers on Science-Based Medicine a heads-up.  Charles’ efforts to promote alternative medicine have been mentioned many times on SBM, but readers may not appreciate the depth of his folly. I know I didn’t, until I read this book. The full story has never been told until now.

Ernst uses Prince Charles’ own words to demonstrate his ignorance of science and medicine. He thinks conventional medicine is nothing but “pills and procedures”. At the age of 34, he had the chutzpah to lecture to the members of the British Medical Association on the power of spiritualism, urging them to follow their intuition rather than look for scientific evidence. He has always been intuitively averse to scientific materialism and was drawn to mysticism. He fell under the influence of disreputable advisers such as Laurens van der Post, who was a compulsive liar and who impregnated a 14-year-old girl.

In addition to haranguing doctors, he has been lobbying politicians to get the NHS to pay for alternative medicine. Fortunately, his efforts have had little effect.

He says “the evidence of experience is just as important as scientific evidence”. He repeatedly falls for the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and other logical fallacies. Ernst wonders if he is really that ignorant about science and logic, or if is this motivated ignorance, ignoring anything that disagrees with his opinions.

Prince Charles is convinced that acupuncture and Gerson therapy are fully supported by scientific evidence, and he endorses diagnostic methods like foot reflexology, iridology, and pulse diagnosis, methods that have been tested and shown not to work. He is a firm believer in homeopathy.

Perhaps the worst thing is that he is proud of being called “the enemy of the Enlightenment”. He is clearly anti-science. He calls for more research into alternative medicine, but he doesn’t mean what we mean by research. He doesn’t want research to ask “if” a treatment is effective, he wants it to demonstrate that it is effective, and that it would save money (which it would not).

Ernst’s book offers many more fascinating details. I hope some of you will read it. You may be as shocked as I was.

  • Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly.

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