Our new head of state – a champion of pseudo-science

A sobering reflection on the beliefs of King Charles published during the week of his coronation in the East London and Docklands Advertiser (4.5.23).

In these times of royal celebrations, it is sobering to reflect that our new Head of State is a champion of pseudo-science.

King Charles makes no secret of his faith in homeopathy. Dating back to 1796, its originator Samuel Hahnemann concluded, on scant evidence, that ‘like can cure like.’ ‘Remedies’ are created by hugely diluting agents in water. An ‘article of faith’ is that, even though no trace of the original substance exists, the water retains a memory of it. Back then the causes of illness were barely understood, and molecular science was in its infancy. Bloodletting was often the go to remedy for desperate patients. The placebo effect of homeopathy contributed to its popularity in the 19 th century. There was a revival with the New Age movement of
the 1970’s, along with other nostrums like crystal healing.

Humanists have been at the forefront of the campaign to expose the spurious nature of
homeopathy. In 2010 a Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee enquiry slammed it as unethical and useless and recommended withdrawing NHS funding. A High Court case in 2018 put the final seal on this. The NHS website highlights homeopathy as ineffective, and potentially dangerous if used as an alternative to treatment that works. The Advertising Standards Authority warns against use of language suggesting it’s effective.

But Charles’s enthusiasm is not deterred by evidence. In the early 2000’s he secretly lobbied health ministers, using his privileged position to urge them to provide homeopathy on the NHS. This became public when the High Court refused to suppress publication of his ‘black-spider’ memos. In 2019 Charles became a patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy, and he continues to endorse the UK’s leading supplier of what are now described as ‘traditional remedies’ with his royal warrant. A product on their website, made from crushed Berlin Wall, apparently helps overcome emotional barriers!

This should not be written off as harmless eccentricity. It feeds into an irrational and harmful
narrative which regards scientifically developed and tested treatments with suspicion, even though science is responsible for the phenomenal progress in treating illness over the last 200 years.

We don’t know if the boy who shouted, ‘The Emperor has no clothes!’ was a royalist. But humanists will always salute his example of telling truth to power.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humani

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