MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Now that the first reviews of, and numerous comments on my new book are in, I thought I bring my readers up to date and perhaps contribute to some fun. My favorite quote comes from a comment on Harriett Hall’s review: “Nothing much new here about Chucky Windsor’s credulity…”

Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I think it is funny and thus I chose it as the title of this post. Apart from being funny, it also has a more serious background. Virtually everyone who contacted me and gave me feedback said that they knew about Charles’ advocacy of alternative medicine. So, the ‘nothing much new’ comment is apt. Yet, they all added that, before reading my book, they had no idea how deeply Charles was involved and how profoundly anti-scientific and irrational his thinking seems to be in this area. Jonathan Stea, for instance, tweeted: “I just finished reading it—review coming soon. Excellent book. I didn’t realize Prince Charles was so stubbornly in love with pseudoscience and trying to promote it for decades under the guise of alternative/integrative medicine.”

Another comment was made on my own blog: “I am an avid consumer of this and other science blogs, books, podcasts and any other media I encounter. One of my earliest exposures was your book Trick or Treat, which I credit with greatly expanding my knowledge of a subject I had dabbled in but had begun to question. I deplore the PoW’s promotion of quackery. I am American and have no dog in the value of Royalty debate. BUT, I don’t see the need to use such a deeply unflattering (and possibly photoshopped) photo of the PoW. I do not think that such a decision is in line with your list of “nots”, and I think it hinders the impact it might otherwise have on fence-sitters. It disappoints me and while I have purchased multiple copies of many of your books to pass on to friends, family, and believers, I will pass on this one.” The photo is perhaps not flattering but there a many out there that are even worse. In any case, it is the publisher who decides on the title page. In the present case, I merely asked them to make my name on the title page a little less prominent than it was on the draft.

And then there were people who emailed me directly, as this medical colleague:

Dear Dr Ernst,

as a GP and ex oral surgeon from a world famous medical school(Edinburgh), also an experienced alternative practitioner,with 51 years in NHS, more than your own clinical exposure, I’m saddened by sponsored? skewed assaults on healing modalities maybe also representing a threat to financial paradigms: I absolved myself of scientific trials “for profit only”, in deference to holistic patient care, & the Hippocratic Oath

 

Karma: what one sows,one shall reap.
Yours sincerely

In a similar vein, Dr. Larry Malerba, a US homeopath, posted this comment on a Medscape interview with me:

Medscape and Ernst deserve each other. What a sad old fellow, desperate to live down his homeopathic past by producing a steady stream of deeply prejudicial anti-homeopathy propaganda. What kind of person dedicates his life to hate speech against the second most popular medical therapy worldwide? No doubt, he’s convinced himself that it’s a noble endeavor. Sad and comical.

Fortunately, the book reviews were more intelligent. They confirm what I mentioned above: reviewers were amazed at the depth of Charles’ irrationality. Harriett Hall expressed it as follows: “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.” And Paul Benedetti wrote: “In short, readable chapters, Ernst unblinkingly presents how Charles has written books and articles promoting alternative medicine and spearheaded organizations, colleges, and foundations, giving full-throated support to one unproven, often bizarre, alternative health cure after another.”

One of the nicest pieces of praise came from someone who posted this comment on Amazon:

This is a revelatory critique of where vague well-intentioned but ill-informed health ideas promoted by a powerful person do or don’t get us.

Professor Ernst’s explanations are admirably clear – and no-one is more qualified than he to write on this topic. It’s difficult to imagine a more devastating comment on the bad conseqeunces of ill-informed ideas and actions, than that found in the last two paragraphs on Page 88.

There is a great deal of valuable information here on ‘alternative medicine’ approaches, in addition to the explanations of HRH Prince Charles’ involvement with them. A most worthwhile book for anyone wanting to find out more about alternative/complementary treatment modalities.

Yes, publishing a book can be a mixed blessing. The author works tirelessly for many months (for next to no pay) only to get aggressed – not for factual errors (that would be perfectly alright) or unfounded arguments (that would be welcome) but for allegedly being in it for the money or producing ‘prejudicial propaganda’. In the case of the new book, this had to be expected. I hesitated for an entire decade writing it (hoping someone else would tackle the task) because I knew that it would be far from straightforward to criticize the future king of one’s own country.

All the more reason to take this occasion and thank those who stand by me, who find my book relevant, who agree that it is instructive, and who feel that it deserves a wide readership.

THANK YOU

51 Responses to “Nothing much new here about Chucky Windsor’s credulity …” A review of the reactions to my biography of Prince Charles

  • Wow! Thank you for featuring my Amazon review! I feel as if I’ve ARRIVED somewhere…….

    It all boils down, I think, to being willing, or unwilling, to follow where the evidence leads. Sadly it seems that HRH has been unwilling to do the latter – unlike our genial host – and in fact took steps to halt the further production of useful evidence he didn’t like the look of.

    That is no service to medicine or humanity.

    With regard to those who offer opinions about suspect motives; you can really only prove things beyond reasonable doubt. Unreasonable doubters will believe what they want anyway (and, if I may reciprocally question motives, they often seem themselves to have a financial incentive for doing so).

  • Given that the subject of the book pretty much requires a picture of Charles on the cover, I think it was well chosen. It humanizes him, makes him look like a sweet, slightly doddering grandparent rather than emphasizing the pomp and ceremony of his position.

  • I have looked over the website of Dr Larry Malerba DO, DHt. Perhaps it would have been better to have overlooked it than to have looked over it.

    It incorporates all the usual tropes – well, what else could it include, really, in the absence of any credible published evidence of superiority over placebo – and does not, to my mind inspire confidence. I followed a link to an article he wrote, about homeopathic treatment of mumps, in a magazine called GreenMedinfo. Sixteen different homeopathic remedies are suggested, to be given 30C or 30X (why the option – how do you decide which potency?) according to symptoms.

    Well, if you assess each remedy in use for a day, then move on to another, it could take you sixteen days, by which time ‘normal’ mumps will have run its course….. No evidence whatever is cited to establish that homeopathic treatment shortens recovery time from mumps.

    Tellingly, GreenMedinfo has a disclaimer under the article which says “This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff”. They don’t have much faith in Dr. Malerba, it seems!

    • neither do I!

    • It is impressive how your ignorance of the homeopathic method leads you to NOT HAVE A CLUE about the homeopathic methodology. Even worse, your mixture of ignorance and arrogance typical an anti-scientific attitude…but you’re in good steed at this website where these characteristics are both common and revered.

      • I’d say that the homeopathic methodology is perfectly clear:
        1. Start out with a substance that may cause particular effects in humans in undiluted form.
        2. Alternatively, if a substance is not associated with any particular effects, simply dream up those effects by means of imagination.
        3. Dissolve or mix the substance in water, with or without the help of lactose and/or alcohol.
        4. Dilute this solution until not a single molecule of the original substance remains, and you are once again left with plain water.
        5. Pretend that this water has magically retained some of the properties from Step 1 or 2.
        6. Moisten sugar pellets with this magical water for cost reduction, convenience, and increased sales success (people are more likely to shell out money for vaguely sweet-tasting sugar crumbs than for tiny bottles of water that – indeed – just tastes like water).
        7. Convince gullible marks that what you’re selling them is a medicine – a medicine that is at the same time both very effective and completely safe, without any side effects. And oh, don’t forget to lie about how all this is ‘scientifically proven’.
        8. Earn lots of $$$!

      • Mr. Ullman, I am glad that you have looked in.

        Could you spare a moment to identify the laboratory that can distinguish between homeopathic water and other water? You said previously that it was “no problem” to do so.

        You will readily sympathise with the burden of irksome opprobrium I continue to labour under, being branded as among “fools or liars” by your good self for doubting that such a distinction could be made.

        Twenty-fifth time of asking.

        Thank you.

        • Oh and Dana, before you claim that you have, you haven’t.

          We have provided you with the name of a laboratory but you have not confirmed that it is suitable. Please name THE laboratory.

        • Could you spare a moment to identify the laboratory that can distinguish between homeopathic water and other water?

          A lab could if they were told in some way. “Psychics” have a lot of tricks.
          That’s why the magician James Randi checked their claims very carefully; as a magician, he knew how tricks can deceive people. He offered a $1 million prize for a rigorous proof of a paranormal claim, including homeopathy.
          The BBC program Horizon took him up on it.

          Although many researchers now offered proof that the effects of homeopathy can be measured, none have yet applied for James Randi’s million dollar prize. For the first time in the programme’s history, Horizon decided to conduct their own scientific experiment.

          The programme gathered a team of scientists from among the most respected institutes in the country. The Vice-President of the Royal Society, Professor John Enderby oversaw the experiment, and James Randi flew in from the United States to watch.

          As with Benveniste’s original experiment, Randi insisted that strict precautions be taken to ensure that none of the experimenters knew whether they were dealing with homeopathic solutions, or with pure water. Two independent scientists performed tests to see whether their samples produced a biological effect. Only when the experiment was over was it revealed which samples were real.

          To Randi’s relief, the experiment was a total failure. The scientists were no better at deciding which samples were homeopathic than pure chance would have been.

  • I don’t see the need to use such a deeply unflattering (and possibly photoshopped) photo of the PoW.

    The picture isn’t that bad.
    But I gather the book is not flattering to him 🙂 Why should the cover picture be flattering?
    Are Brits deferential towards the royal family, to the extent that their opinions carry more weight with them than a commoner’s would? If so, that would add to his outsized influence.

  • Medscape and Ernst deserve each other. What a sad old fellow, desperate to live down his homeopathic past by producing a steady stream of deeply prejudicial anti-homeopathy propaganda. What kind of person dedicates his life to hate speech against the second most popular medical therapy worldwide? No doubt, he’s convinced himself that it’s a noble endeavor.

    Argument by amateur psychoanalysis, again. It seems to be very common among these alt-med promoters.

  • Of course it’s not just Charles – as you know Ainsworth homeopaths hold a royal warrant as ‘chemist’ to the queen as well as Charles.
    I wonder if she has a nibble of Berlin wall if she feels a bit alienated.

  • At least Prince Charles isn’t anti-vaccine. He writes:

    Who would have thought, for instance, that in the 21st century that there would be a significant lobby opposing vaccination, given its track record in eradicating so many terrible diseases and its current potential to protect and liberate some of the most vulnerable in our society from coronavirus?

    Anti-vaccine attitudes are probably the most dangerous aspect of alt-med. People opposing the Covid vaccines have killed a lot of people besides the anti-vaxxers – both from getting Covid, and people who can’t get emergency medical care for their heart attacks etc. because the hospitals are full of Covid patients.

    Some patients who need to be transferred from one ER to another for higher level emergency care are stuck. Snedecor says she’s seeing this in Phoenix because the system is so inundated.

    “They just sit there and they die, or they have long-term ill effects related to the fact that they couldn’t get the care that they needed when they needed it,” she says. “And we all know with a lot of these conditions — stroke, heart attack — time is of the essence.”

    • “Two infectious diseases have successfully been eradicated: smallpox in humans and rinderpest in ruminants.”
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_diseases

      • https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine

        And polio is on its way out, thanks to vaccines.

        • Don’t hold your breath for vaccines to eradicate covid… it ain’t gonna happen.
          Betcha a million dollars.

          • I don’t think anybody, least of all virologists, believe that vaccines will eradicate covid. They were never intended to do that.

            What they were intended to do was to reduce the severity of infection and reduce the rate of transmission, and they have been spectacularly successful in achieving this goal, and saved a great many lives in the process.

            Part of the problem seems to be that some people have unrealistic expectations of what vaccines are and what they can do. If you have unrealistic expectations of anything you will end up being disappointetd

          • JM-K. Thank you for saying that. Basically the vaccines are to reduce the number and rate of severe CoVid cases so they don’t overburdening the healthcare system as the virus moves thru the population.

          • Basically the vaccines are to reduce the number and rate of severe CoVid cases so they don’t overburdening the healthcare system as the virus moves thru the population.

            You forgot to mention an important side-effect of covid vaccines…a substantial reduction in risk of dying from covid.

          • Don’t hold your breath for vaccines to eradicate covid… it ain’t gonna happen.

            There are likely to be wild animal reservoirs for Covid now.
            This would prevent it being eradicated.
            So even if everybody got vaccinated who medically was able to, as soon as they could – if there were no anti-vaxxers – Covid would still not be eradicated.
            However, it wouldn’t be killing nearly as many people, hospitals would not be overwhelmed so that care is delayed for people having heart attacks and strokes … etc.

          • You forgot to mention an important side-effect of covid vaccines…a substantial reduction in risk of dying from covid.

            Well, if the vaccines decrease hospital admissions it is granted that the number of deaths would also decrease.

          • not really!

  • In your book you write

    Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) describes the phenomenon that many of the treatments can be deployed either as a replacement of or as an adjunct to conventional medicine

    “Complementary and alternative medicine” is just a concise way of saying “complementary medicine and alternative medicine”, which would be a mouthful.
    It doesn’t mean “medicine that is both complementary and alternative”. If somebody wanted to make a point about using something both as a complement and alternative to mainstream medicine, they would have to be more explicit about it.

    • I do not get your point and think my description applies.
      for example, HOMEOPATHY can be used by one person as an alternative to (replacement of) and by another person as a complement of (adjunct to) conventional medicine

      • It sounds like you’re interpreting the phrase “complementary and alternative medicine” in a way that most people wouldn’t: taking “complementary and alternative” as an adjective in itself. It’s just a shortened version of “complementary medicine and alternative medicine”.

        for example, HOMEOPATHY can be used by one person as an alternative to (replacement of) and by another person as a complement of (adjunct to) conventional medicine

        That isn’t inherent in the term “complementary and alternative medicine”, which is defined as

        The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of NIH defines CAM as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine”

        which is a broader definition.
        It isn’t that uncommon for an alt-med provider to tell someone they should be using their treatment, and not the mainstream medical treatment. That would still be considered CAM.
        For example, enzyme-potentiated desensitization, which is an alt-med treatment for allergies.

        This new form of EPD is called Low Dose Allergen Immunotherapy. The protocol is exactly the
        same as it was with EPD. … Since LDA also treats inhalants and foods, regular
        allergy shots are discontinued. https://www.medicalwellnessassociates.com/assets/silver_websites/medical-wellness-associates/pdfs/MWA_LDA.pdf

        It’s similar to a doctor not using two different treatments on a patient at the same time.
        And I read about a cancer quack recently who told their patient to stop getting the standard cancer treatment, because it was interfering with their CAM treatment.
        And faith healing – if one considers that to be CAM – would be another example. Getting medical treatment from a doctor might be considered to show a lack of faith.

        • one can argue about definitions until the cows come home.
          my favorite is SCAM, so-called alternative medicine.

          • When you wrote

            Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) describes the phenomenon that many of the treatments can be deployed either as a replacement of or as an adjunct to conventional medicine

            “describes the phenomenon that” sounded kind of like you were coming up with a definition of CAM. And I was confused by that, because it doesn’t work as a definition.
            But you were actually just listing various different expressions that are roughly equivalent to “alternative medicine”, and commenting on why people might use those different expressions.
            So “Was inspired by the fact that …” would be more appropriate than “Describes the phenomenon that”.

            SCAM is not a good name for alternative medicine. “So-called alternative medicine” is fine, but using the acronym implies that it’s a scam. That is an unwarranted generalization.
            First, it implies that alt-med doesn’t work. But alt-med is a huge miscellany of treatments that are plausible but unproven, and treatments that aren’t even plausibly effective, or have been disproven.
            Second, it implies that the alt-med practitioners are aware that their treatments don’t work, and use them anyway – that they are consciously running a scam.
            SCAM is overly negative, just like “alternative” is overly positive.
            Maybe “non science based medicine” would be a good name. Or “non-validated medicine”.

          • by Jove, you are boring!

          • … and off subject

          • … and wrong.

        • Even the “defined as” link that Robin H provides says later in the text that “This discussion of definitions shows that no clear and consistent definition of CAM exists.” The NCCAM definition that the paper quotes is only one of several referred to in the link.

      • That’s happened to me also. I got an allergy treatment at one time that was unproven and not the standard treatment, so it would be considered CAM.
        When the guy doing the treatment discussed it with me, he asked about my current allergy treatment. I told him I was getting allergy shots. He didn’t like that much, and inquired as to why I would get allergy shots (like maybe the allergy shots would interfere). He did do his treatment with me anyway, though.
        I don’t know if my allergy shots interfered with his treatment, but his treatment may well have interfered with my allergy shots, as I found out later.

      • This might be a good place to observe that Prince Charles does *not* advocate the alt-med (CAM) practices (such as the examples I gave) that do exclude the mainstream treatment. Those are the kinds of things that result in the worst horror stories – Christian Scientists refusing to give insulin to their diabetic children, etc.
        Like, give him credit where credit is due.
        As long as that’s true about Prince Charles, anyway. He does not seem to be hostile to mainstream medicine, as a lot of alt-med proponents and practitioners are.

        • “This might be a good place to observe that Prince Charles does *not* advocate the alt-med (CAM) practices (such as the examples I gave) that do exclude the mainstream treatment.”
          On the contrary!
          As soon as he is ill, he uses the best conventional medicine has to offer.
          This is not to his credit but shows the hypocrisy of the man.

        • Robin H, have you read the Professor’s book, and reviewed it anywhere?

  • one can argue about definitions until the cows come home.

    Sure. I’m just saying that it sounds like you’re misinterpreting the phrase, rather than making a claim of your own about medical treatments and products that are outside of mainstream medicine.
    It’s also a claim that isn’t true for all of CAM, as it’s usually defined.
    It actually serves as an excuse for the alt-med provider: “You weren’t careful enough, that’s why my treatment didn’t work! You got chemotherapy and it weakened your immune system.” Or whatever.

    • Robin H wrote “I’m just saying that it sounds like you’re misinterpreting the phrase…”

      You can say whatever you like, however:
      QUOTE
      Defining CAMs

      There’s no universally agreed definition of CAMs.

      Although “complementary and alternative” is often used as a single category, it can be useful to make a distinction between the 2 terms.

      The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) uses this distinction:

      • When a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary”.

      • When a non-mainstream practice is used instead of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative”.

      There can be overlap between these categories.

      For example, aromatherapy may sometimes be used as a complementary treatment, and in other circumstances is used as an alternative treatment.

      A number of complementary and alternative treatments are typically used with the intention of treating or curing a health condition.
      END of QUOTE NHS England [Retrieved 2022-03-01]

      Do you actually have a point? It’s difficult to follow your scattered comments.

      • Nobody except Dr. Ernst defines CAM as medicine other than the mainstream that is used both as complementary and as alternative to mainstream medicine – that seems to be a definition that is idiosyncratic to him.
        Also, things that normally would be considered CAM aren’t under his definition, such as EPD/LDA – an alternative allergy treatment that doesn’t have good evidence for it.

        • Well, what do you expect? You’ve only paid for a five minute argument, not the full half hour.

          Anyway, it’s really good to see you telling the world’s first Professor of Complementary Medicine that he’s wrong in both his interpretation of the type descriptor “complementary and alternative medicine” and the modality instances he chooses to address. You score even more points for spamming his website with your admonitions. Somebody had to do it: hopefully, your amazing work here will soon be completed, which will enable you to concentrate your much-needed resources elsewhere.

  • I don’t think anyone here is claiming that vaccines will eradicate Covid. Vaccines have not eradicated seasonal influenzas, but they have made them considerably less dangerous for elderly and/or health-impaired persons. I am very glad to get an annual ‘flu vaccination.

  • The part about the Smallwood Report is really shocking.
    Prince C. commissioned this report, which was given to politicians in the Parliament, trying to influence them to offer some alt-med treatments on the NHS. It was written by Christopher Smallwood, an economist and not a medical expert.
    After it was released,

    Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet … did not mince his words:
    “Let’s be clear: this report contains dangerous nonsense. The summary includes the following:

    ‘The best evidence for homeopathy, in terms both of improved health care and reduced costs, is associated with its use as an alternative to conventional medicine in relation to a number of everyday conditions, particularly asthma.’

    About 1,400 people die from asthma every year in the UK. It is a life-threatening condition that can be controlled by the effective use of drugs. The idea that homeopathy can replace conventional treatment, as the prince’s report suggests, is absolutely wrong. Not one shred of reliable evidence exists to support this incredibly misjudged claim. Lives will be lost if this practice, apparently endorsed by the president of the GMC [General Medical Council], is followed.”

    So Prince Charles in this case did promote the kind of denial of life-saving medical care that results in horror stories.
    So affluent people could get their asthma meds, the poor get a placebo.
    Luckily this proposal didn’t fly.

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