Prince Charles And The Headless Chicken Brigade

Prince CharlesNormally I’m not the type to defend Prince Charles thanks to him having some questionable views on science. For example his staunch support of homoeopathy as a viable medical treatment. Telling anyone that homoeopathy works is extremely dangerous and he’s been justly criticised for lobbying for it.

However, I have no trouble commending someone when they do get it right. One example being his recent statements about climate science deniers:

It is baffling, I must say, that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about everything – until, that is, it comes to climate science.

All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all our faith in so much overwhelming scientific evidence.

So, thank goodness for our young entrepreneurs here this evening, who have the far-sightedness and confidence in what they know is happening to ignore the headless chicken brigade and do something practical to help.

Granted, it’s a bit strange to hear this kind of commentary of trusting science and listening to experts when Prince Charles rejects valid science. I can understand someone pointing out the hypocrisy of Prince Charles thinking homoeopathy works while at the same time criticising climate science deniers. Not an ideal combination for being taken serious.

But his remarks were incredibly on the mark. Take for example the letter from Christopher Monckton (archived here) that Anthony Watts posted on Watts Up With That:

Now that Your Royal Highness has offered Your Person as fair game in the shootout of politics, I am at last free to offer two options. […]

Option 1. Your Royal Highness will renounce the Throne forthwith and for aye. Those remarks were rankly party-political and were calculated to offend those who still believe, as Your Royal Highness plainly does not, that the United Kingdom should be and remain a free country, where any subject of Her Majesty may study science and economics, may draw his conclusions from his research and may publish the results, however uncongenial the results may be.

The line has been crossed. No one who has intervened thus intemperately in politics may legitimately occupy the Throne.


On the other hand, we Brits are sport-mad. So here is option 2. I am going to give you a sporting second chance, Charlie, baby.

You see, squire, you are no longer above politics. You’ve toppled off your gilded perch and now you’re in it up to your once-regal neck. So, to get you used to the idea of debating on equal terms with your fellow countrymen, I’m going to give you a once-in-a-reign opportunity to win back your Throne in a debate about the climate. The motion: “Global warming is a global crisis.” You say it is. I say it isn’t.

We’ll hold the debate at the Cambridge Union, for Cambridge is your alma mater and mine. You get to pick two supporting speakers and so do I. We can use PowerPoint graphs. The Grand Debate will be televised internationally over two commercial hours. We let the world vote by phone, before and after the debate. If the vote swings your way, you keep your Throne. Otherwise, see you down the pub.

The irony of this type of response from Monckton towards Prince Charles doesn’t escape me. Especially when Prince Charles said that climate science deniers often respond “with a barrage of sheer intimidation.” Of course what Monckton didn’t isn’t very impressive in the sense of intimidation. He comes across as a playground bully with the language he uses.

Challenging Prince Charles to a debate, and maybe even winning it, doesn’t mean that what Monckton says is correct. Anyone familiar with the claims Monckton makes during such a debate should know this. A debate does not lend itself well to fact-checking what the participants say. Opponents, or the audience, will not be able to look up sources and check if they confirm what you say. Even after a debate it’s not easy to verify statements and arguments for audience members.

It also has no bearing whatsoever on what is in the literature. It’s the scientific literature and the conclusions experts have drawn from the findings in it that matter. That’s what you should listen to and base your position on. That’s not politics, that’s sound scientific scepticism.

Prince Charles and Monckton should both accept what the science says. For Prince Charles on the matter that homoeopathy doesn’t work. And Monckton should learn to accept the findings that the planet is warming, we are to blame, and if we continue on the road we are on, it will not be pretty.

But I don’t have high hopes for Prince Charles listening to his own advice, or Monckton taking it.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.