In which a certain box of blinky lights is published in pontificating about Prince Charles

After a busy and late day yesterday, I didn't have any gas left in the tank, if you know what I mean, to produce Insolence as epic as my posts about The Food Babe and cries of antivaccine activists of "Help, help! I'm being repressed!" Or maybe I should say that Orac's power supply is drained and his Tarial cells need recharging.

Sometimes, however, serendipity happens. As you might have seen in the news, everybody's favorite Quacktitioner Royal (His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales) is in the United States for a visit. I wrote about it last month, and—miracle of miracles!—someone at was interested, so much so that I was asked to do an article about Prince Charles and his love of medical quackery. So I did. And it was published yesterday. If you haven't seen it yet, check out Prince of pseudosciece.

An excerpt:

As an adult, the Prince of Wales has been outspoken in his support for quackery like homeopathy and other forms of alternative medicine, often using his official role to promote that advocacy. One glaring example of Prince Charles’ advocacy for “integrating” alternative medicine into conventional medicine occurred in 2006, when he addressed the World Health Assembly in Geneva to argue for the “integration” of “complementary therapies,” which he said “are rooted in ancient traditions that intuitively understood the need to maintain balance and harmony with our minds, bodies and the natural world” and that “modern medicine needs to accommodate a more integrated and holistic approach,” while advocating acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine. The address provoked an article in the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology Journal by its editor Gerald Weissmann sarcastically titled, “Homeopathy: Holmes, Hogwarts, and the Prince of Wales,” which described a prince “at war with science.” The speech also led British science to strike back. Anticipating Prince Charles’ points, 13 of Britain’s most eminent physicians and scientists published an “Open Letter: Use of ‘Alternative’ Medicine in the NHS”, which was very critical of efforts, supported by the prince, to integrate “complementary therapies,” including homeopathy, in the U.K.’s National Heath Service.

Read the whole thing! And come back tonight or tomorrow for new Insolence.

More like this

Well, this is encouraging to see: A scientific journal publishing an article debunking pseudoscience, in this case the pseudoscience of homeopathy. (Grrrlscientist might object to the use of Hogwarts in the title, in essence comparing homeopathy to the wizardry of Harry Potter's world. So would I,…
As I mentioned on Friday, over the last few days I was in Chicago attending the American College of Surgeons annual meeting. At least, that's where I was until last evening. Unfortunately, I got back home too late and was thus too tired to lay down some fresh Insolence, Respectful or otherwise, for…
Oh, goody. Here's something we didn't need here in the US. While Australian skeptics have successfully been rallying to put a stop to a series of lectures from American antivaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, we're going to have to put up with a far bigger name in quackery showing up right here in…
Once again, repeat after me: Homeopathy is quackery. In fact, it's what I like to refer to as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. You would think that, in a modern world and given the incredible advancements in our scientific understanding of biology, physiology, chemistry, and physics over the…

Nice article over in Slate. And you got a Dana Ullman comment too-- apparently you cut people and give them poisons to cure them of cancer.! This is apparently not nice in his book, even though sane people know it's, well, often effective.

And then there are the tone trolls saying you should be nice ot the visitor. It's really pretty hilarious.

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

Heh. I haven't looked at the comments since early yesterday. Perhaps I should wait until I get home from work, so that I can pour myself a nice beer or glass of wine before seeing comments like Dana's...

Nice to see the blinkenbox getting out and about, spreading his Insolence to all the great unwashed masses (Draconis pity them).

As to the benighted Brian, touch wood old Brenda's lizard genes should keep her running long after old age and/or stupidity has hustled the King Quacktitioner-in-waiting to homeopathic Heaven. As Britain's ambassador the old girl has never been less than consummately professional; I don't imagine she wants the idiot child embarrassing that legacy any more than the rest of us.

I liked the article, but your first statements about the monarchy annoyed me. I know the idea inherited positions is very alien to people in the USA (even if they don't grand real power) and if you have moral objections to the system that you consider outdated, that's your perogative (albeit a bit condescending).

However, you also mentioned cost's two times. Which is not based on facts. There is a lot of research that suggests the monarchy is a net winner for the Brits (tourism/brand/etc). Even when you solely look at direct costs and benefits souvenirs they tend to break even.

So many comment tears for poor benighted Prince Charles..... So sad...

I put up two comments directed at Mr. Ullman. He linked to an abstract presented six years ago at a cancer conference, which described the provision of a homeopathic "medicine" along with traditional evidence-based care for patients with advanced cancers.

From Ullman's link to that abstract, a description of the homeopathic "medicine":

"Methods: The drug psorinum (an alcoholic extract of scabies, scrub, slough, and pus cells) was administered orally at 0.01ml-0.02 ml/Kg body weight as a single dose in empty stomach per day and ongoing to all the participants along with allopathic and homeopathic supportive cares."

I challenged Mr. Ullman to provide us with his opinion about the use of "scabies, scrub, slough and pus cells" as a cancer treatment.

From what I hear, the Prince's estate in Cornwall turns a profit - largely via branded selling. Because some folks find proximity to royalty - even woo royalty - irresistible.

I forget, is the brand also selling homeopathic remedies? I wouldn't be surprised.

By Johanna Mead (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I find our next-in-line excruciatingly embarrassing on this issue.
The wider issue of how to run countries, is obviously also very controversial, and far be it from me to derail this admirably focussed blog with such a discussion.
But since you devote some space to this in your slate article, perhaps I might be allowed to point out that constitutions based on the unadulterated milk of pure reason have been tried and led in most cases to catastrophic results.
Even in the US where it's probably been most successful, you've had a bloody civil war over the interpretation of your constitution, which has in its time been found to be compatible with slavery, and by a solemn supreme court set up to decide these issues.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I'm sorry, but whenever I see this photo of Prince Charles I have to wonder "Is he trying to do a Tom Baker impersonation?"

I forget, is the brand also selling homeopathic remedies? I wouldn’t be surprised.

The Prince's brand was on homeopathic remedies, but I don't think it is any more. Our UK skeptics could tell us more.

@JGC -- I do think putting him in charge of the Tardis would be a big mistake.

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

“Methods: The drug psorinum (an alcoholic extract of scabies, scrub, slough, and pus cells) was administered orally at 0.01ml-0.02 ml/Kg body weight as a single dose in empty stomach per day and ongoing to all the participants along with allopathic and homeopathic supportive cares.”

At that dosage it would seem to be a detectable amount. That strongly implies that it is not homeopathic unless the original psorinum had already been diluted down to a "stronger" amount.

@#7: Wait, his estate is in Cornwall? The Prince of Wales' estate is in Cornwall? I guess even it's Prince can't stand to live in Wales.

By Wolfbeckett (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink


I think that’s why She is called the Duchess of Cornwall?

There is also a castle in Scotland, I believe.

By darwinslapdog (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I think the alleged "net gain" from British citizens subsidizing the royal family has to be weighed against losses related to national embarrassment, not least of which involves persecution of an eminent alt med skeptic (Dr. Ernst) who dared to challenge Prince Charles' quackery.

At least we can vote our anti-science nimrods out of office.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

Frankly, I hope it's a long, long time before Prince Chuckles takes the throne. His predecessor, Edward VII, was 60 when he took the throne; his mother, Queen Victoria, reigned for 64 years. That nemesis of the American colonies, George III, was king for 60 years. Elizabeth's mother, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, lived to 102, so there's hope, there's hope.
Chuckles continues to market his line of Douchy, I mean Duchy, Originals, which now reaches to several hundred products.
As far as I can tell, Prince Chuckles is merely another exemplar of the slow decline of the genetic stock of British royalty.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I know a story about Charles and Camilla that I believe might be true ( written by a travel writer):

on a trip to Northern California, they wanted to see the fabled hippie town of Bolinas- the denizens of which attempt to limit tourist visits by taking down any signs that direct outsiders to their organic, sustainable, craft-laden, foggy surfers' mecca.
( It's located on the Point Reyes peninsula which includes protected land and shoreline) Obviously, they wanted to enjoy the perfect produce and earthy lifestyle.

However their driver had difficulty figuring out the back roads** and they had to give up because time was a-wastin' and they had another event of their itinerary. So they saw Inverness*** instead.

** I didn't; there's a good map at the park information building.
*** Inverness, CA, that is.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

The Prince is a bit nutty on complimentary medicine but he is a also a strong critic of British architecture and if anything needs criticizing it is or at least was British architecture. -1 and +1.
Disclaimer: I have not been in the UK since about 2000.

On the idea that Americans find the monarchy quaint, well it has worked for a thousand years or so. Personally I have never lived an a republic and find the idea of doing so rather disturbing. And I'm not even British, we just have the same Queen.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I gotta say that picture of Prince Charles cracks me up every time. :-D

To the folks making a Fourth Doctor comparison, well, Prince Charles and also the Queen are apparently Whovians, though in accordance with proper protocol they maintain far more decorum on the subject than your typical Whovian is capable of. ;-) There is a video on YouTube of Charles & Camilla's official visit ot the Dr Who studios in 2013. They get to tour the set and such, and Nicholas Briggs was asked to show them how the ring modulator works to make his voice sound like a Dalek, and Prince Charles got to have a go at it himself. The sound quality is poor, but it is quite funny to hear his voice modulated Dalek-style, as the accent of the royals is definitely distinct from that of Nicholas Briggs.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

However their driver had difficulty figuring out the back roads

I haven't been to the Point Reyes area in many years, so I have forgotten what signage practices are in that area, but depending on what you expect I can see how it would be a problem. In most of New England, especially the countryside, the people who put up street signs tend to assume that you know the name of the main road, so they only sign the side roads. (I even once saw a side road in a rural part of Maine that was signed for people going one direction on the main road; presumably if you were coming the other way, from even more remote parts, and wanted to turn on that side road, you knew that this was your turnoff.) This is a regular source of vexation for people who come here from places where main roads are also signed. Sometimes the signs that do exist are hard to spot, which makes things harder for people who don't know the area (I ran into that just yesterday, trying to find a location in a town I'm not familiar with, and ending up driving past the location three times before I figured out it was the place I wanted to go--and only then spotting the sign that marked the corner I was looking for.)

So yes, I would believe a driver getting lost on back roads, particularly if the Prince brings his driver with him as part of the entourage.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I have to second (third?) the comments which generally praise you for the article but dispute your opening assault on the concept of monarchy. There are quite a few quite good reasons, as explained by several schools of political theory, for keeping a "figurehead" monarchy going. Indeed, this is such a well regarded concept that many Republics have adopted it, by having head of state with zero day-to-day powers but with some form of reserve powers.

Looking to other examples that share the Crown with the UK, you could look at the King-Byng-Thing or the 1970s Australian constitutional crisis to see the value of a monarchy.

At least we can vote our anti-science nimrods out of office.

Pity we don't do it more often.

@palindrom #11 - you owe me a new keyboard. The mental image of Prince Charles in the TARDIS caught me by surprise. A LOT of surprise. ;)

By Johanna Mead (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

you could look at [...] the 1970s Australian constitutional crisis to see the value of a monarchy

The time in 1975 when the Queen's representative in Australia abused his powers and staged a coup, dissolving the elected left-leaning government and appointing a right-wing government he preferred? Is that really supposed to be a good example?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

@jrkrideau #18

"worked for a thousand years"? Methinks your idea of working is somewhat different than mine, especially since one of Charles' namesakes lost his head, and the first three Georges had very unusual personal lives. They make the current Charles look positively staid.

@ Eric Lund:

It's a small narrow road in a wooded area. I understand that driving north is worse because there's a sharp left turn ( hey, it's Bolinas, it is sharply left) But it's relatively easy from the north and the park.

I enjoyed it immensely- an afternoon in the land of the lotus eaters- I met interesting older, hipsters in an ancient bar, talked with a shop owner who sold me soap and sang some really old songs and saw odd examples of amateur architectural diversity ( fixing up old homes that were sliding into the lagoon) and prehistoric looking plant species used as landscaping. And watching surfing in the fog.
People seemed quite happy when the sun made a brief
appearance. A re-fuelling station was very expensive because it was community owned, I believe, and funded affordable housing. You could leave off or take old clothes at a recycling bin.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ Elliott:

It seems that there are quite a few 'peoples' republics' springing up around the English-speaking world.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

GregH #21. Its far more than just a ''figurehead'' monarchy……

Its unaccountable and expensive, also there are more problems like the Royal Prerogative; this allows the Prime Minister to declare war or sign treaties (amongst other things) without a vote in Parliament, The Privy Council: A body of advisors to the monarch, now mostly made up of senior politicians, which can enact legislation without a vote in Parliament then The Crown-in-Parliament; The principle, which came about when parliament removed much of the monarch's power, by which Parliament can pass any law it likes so ''we'' (Britons) have no guarantee of any rights

It doesn't seem like you can buy his branned water, sorry I mean his homeopathic treatments anymore. How sad! (unless I'm wrong??)

By James Peters (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

As a Brit I entirely agree with Orac's sentiments about our royal family. I regard them as an embarrassing anachronism. I doubt very much that tourism would suffer much if they vanished overnight, as most people come to see the historical residences and archaic pageantry like the changing of the guard, rather than in the hope of a glimpse of an inbred aristocrat.

BTW, being called a madman by Ullman is a huge compliment; kudos to Orac.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I read the article but not the comments section so I might have to pop over and browse. My late MIL was obsessed with the British royal family, in particular Princess Diana, and when my hubby cleaned out her house he found a treasure trove of memorabilia on the British royal family. Thankfully he had the good sense (and taste) to let it go to the estate sale and not bring it back home. I agree that we should do more voting out of office of idiots here in the US, sadly that seems to be a more and more rare occurrence and instead we seem to be actively electing the most moronic individuals we can find.

Congrats! May it bring enough new readers to fund your lab.

Ah, Denice --- the People's Republic of Cambridge is not one of your nouveau republics. It's an old joke here.

Witness some local long-established businesses:
The People's Republik Bar (that's the way it is spelled)
Revolution Books (between Harvard & MIT). I have no idea how they manage to stay in business.
Chameleon Tatoo and Body Piercing, which is proud to be the "First and Finest licensed Tattoo and Body Piercing shop of the People's Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts."

Also, don't forget that back in the 80's, Cambridge established the first "Peace Commission", complete with a peace director, who was given "the responsibilities of establishing a sister city relationship with a city in the Soviet Union, instituting the first peace curriculum in Cambridge's schools, and working with elected officials through the National League of Cities to find ways to address the looming threat of nuclear war". (I'm not making this up--it's right off the city website).
This clearly worked, since the Soviet Union fell not long after. (Bear in mind, we're talking about alternative woo here, where correlation = causation").

Getting back on the topic of Charles, P of W, my late PhD advisor (who was British) met him once, and as I recall, was distinctly unimpressed. I wonder if that meeting was a factor in why my advisor never returned to his homeland after retiring from academia.

@ Elliott:

I have visited the fair PR of C many times.

[The other ( US) PRs are ( most likely**) Berkeley, Oakland, Boulder, Brooklyn and Woodstock- Brattleboro's too small; then there are the PRs in the UK and Canada.]

FYI one of the founding mothers of TMR, Alison MacNeil, lives in Cambridge and even was a therapist there. She's writing a novel.

** I deliberately leave off Austin - not the same vibe.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink


Agree with you about Austin.
I nearly got arrested there once--for jaywalking.

I "liked" Palindrom, lilady and JP over at Slate: good comments, focused on the topic at hand. JP (I think it was) really tore a strip off Dana; I'd bet that smarted. A huge avalanche of posters, too!

@ Elliott:

Not That I've ever been there.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

I wouldn't mind so much if he was just Charlie Windsor (really Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but they changed their name during World War 1), some nutty old inbred guy who has never done a day's work of real work in his life and has some wierd opinions, but I'm technically committing high treason by criticising him because he won the lucky sperm contest.

he won the lucky sperm contest.

What about the egg?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink


@4: the old canard about tourist money derived from the royals is not actually quantifiable (I would love to see the supposed "research"), i.e. separating out the supposed influence of the royals on tourist spend from all the other factors.

And even if it was that is out-weighed by their malign influence: Charlie boy's direct interference in our supposedly democratic processes (see The Guardian's long-running attempts using FOI to allow us to see how he tries to influence ministers; jis interference in planning decisions; his role in getting Edzard Ernst sacked; and...and...); their symbolic position as the head of a corrupt and corrupting aristocratic system which has no place in a supposedly mature democracy; their weaselly attempts to avoid paying tax to the same level that a standard PAYE (that's the Pay As You Earn payroll-based income tax for the non-UK-ians) slave like me does; their role in maintaining the role of inherited and definitely not earned privilege in society...

Do I need to go on?

That we give this not at all bright berk, who was fiddled into Cambridge, and his incoherent mess of attempts at thought any kind of credence does NOT speak well for this country.

The sooner we grow up and get shot of these parasites the better!

GregH, as someone who has to suffer through a figure monarchy, and it is not even ours, I am struggling to think of one benefit.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Charles holds the odd views he holds precisely because he won the lucky egg contest. If his parents had been Mr and Mrs Windsor, greengrocers of Woolloomooloo he would have been too busy holding down a day job rather than thinking he has the solution to all those uppity peasants.

Roman @36 -- Thanks! Or, perhaps, merci!

As for the "We'll never be royal" topic (readers are Strongly Urged to look up Weird Al Yankovich's video parody, "Aluminum Foil"), this certainly brings to mind Farcical Aquatic Ceremonies.

By palindrom (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

"1000 years'
Well there have been a few ups and downs, but it's still there and it's still the family business (Though I'd like a few DNA tests).

In fact, an executive presidency like the US has strikes us as an anachronism, something UK and the Commonwealth evolved away from 3 or 4 centuries ago.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink