Saturday, 10 January 2009

Charles wins the prize


We can now announce that the winner of the Counterknowledge Award for 2008 is HRH The Prince of Wales. Prince Charles received 25% of the 2000 votes, beating the Church of Scientology by just over 2%.

The Counterknowledge Award goes to the person or institution that has done most to disseminate dodgy science or bogus history during the year.

In early January, the Prince became the longest-serving king-in-waiting in British history—not one of the most sought-after sobriquets. But Prince Charles isn’t one for twiddling his thumbs, so what did the old boy get up to?

In August, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Prince announced that food corporations were “conducting a gigantic experiment with nature”. Totally disregarding, or perhaps ignorant of, science, the future King of England remarked, “if they think it's somehow going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another then again count me out, because that will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”

In November, Prince Charles caused consternation by telling Jonathan Dimbleby that when he is monarch he will speak out on “matters of national and international importance”. Now we’re not 100% clear on what those matters might be, but December saw the Prince’s organic food company, Duchy Originals, announce the imminent arrival of a “herbal remedies” line. According to Duchy, it will be available early next year and reflects “the prince’s passion for adopting an integrated approach to healthcare”. Gawd help us.

As promised, the prize, a bottle of snake oil, will be delivered to Clarence House in January.

The National Health Executive (the Independent Journal for Senior Health Service Managers) asked for an article about quack medicine and David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at UCL wrote this before Christmas. Here is a paragraph from it describing some of the major quackeries, several of which Prince Charles recommends for consideration as part of his "integrated approach to healthcare".

Homeopathy: giving patients medicines that contain no medicine whatsoever.
Herbal medicine: giving patients an unknown dose of a medicine, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety.
Acupuncture: a theatrical placebo, with no real therapeutic benefit in most if not all cases.
Chiropractic: an invention of a 19th century salesmen, based on nonsensical principles, and shown to be no more effective than other manipulative therapies, but less safe.
Reflexology: plain old foot massage, overlaid with utter nonsense about non-existent connections between your feet and your thyroid gland.
Nutritional therapy: self-styled ‘nutritionists’ making unjustified claims about diet to sell unnecessary supplements.

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