In all the discussion of the rights and wrongs of Prince Charles' comments about education (whatever else you want to say about them, if you're going to criticise people who "think they are qualified far beyond their technical capabilities", and you're the heir to the throne purely on the basis of who your mother is, then you shouldn't include "head of state" in your list of jobs to which underqualified people unjustly aspire), I've been most struck by various references to the Prince's relationship with David Lorimer, who's edited a book about him called Radical Prince.
I met David Lorimer a couple of years ago when he organised a two-day conference in Durham which I attended - it was entirely free, it was only a short walk away from where I was living at the time, and it gave me a break from my PhD research. I don't know much about the financing of the Scientific and Medical Network, which Lorimer runs, but the cost of organising a two-day conference with free food and accommodation for around 50 people must have been pretty high. The Network's purpose, amongst other things, is to find:
a) evidence (not proof) of planning by or purpose of some dynamic mind other than that of any incarnate person connected with the research.
b) evidence of the existence of energies, laws and forms of life that cannot be directly apprehended by our normal physical senses.
c) evidence that the physical structure of living or inanimate things is dependent for its maintenance and growth on a more basic non-physical field.
d) well attested instances of higher sense perception (HSP). Professor E R Laithwaite's article "Inner Voice" in the New Scientist of December 20th appears to furnish an example of this.
e) well attested cases of mind functioning independently of the body (including out-of-the-body experiences)
f) evidence of the continuity of life after the death of the body.
g) the more than usually conclusive cases of healing through paranormal agencies (since there are so many cases of healing to choose from).
- from Wider Horizons, pp. 11-12 (see below)
Conjunctions of words like "evidence", "well attested" and "conclusive" with words like "dynamic mind", "more basic non-physical field" and "paranormal" are quite amusing, but they indicate that some basic courses in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion might be productive.
There's some information about the conference here, and a report on it (by David Lorimer) here. The conference was simultaneously entertaining and depressing: entertaining because so much patent nonsense was being peddled by those present; depressing because it was being peddled, and lapped up, with so much enthusiasm. As a general rule, where the participants were scientifically literate - and several of them held teaching posts in university science faculties - they had little understanding of theology, tending to caricature religion in general as fire-and-brimstone fundamentalism or at the very least to see it in monolithic terms. I participated in various small-group discussions in which it seemed to me that we were being railroaded into accepting conclusions of the "if this option doesn't make sense, then this one must be true" variety (doubts exist about this possible scientific explanation... therefore believe this paranormal one!). I remember being particularly irritated, given my area of research at the time, by assumptions that mystics were somehow more reliable sources of truth than the monolithic, tradition-bound structures of authority within conventional religion (as false dichotomies go, this one goes a long way: lots of Christian mystics were made saints, for God's sake!).
I didn't particularly enjoy the evening session on shamanic journeying either.
At the conference, I was given a copy of a book, Wider Horizons: Explorations in Science and Human Experience. Perhaps the most amusing part of this collection is a chart, "Worldviews in Transition", by Prof Mark B. Woodhouse, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University (pp. 260-264). The chart seeks to lay out shifting paradigms, under the headings "Past/Current" and "Current/Developing". Here are a few of them:
Past/Current: Only sound and the electromagnetic spectrum have "frequencies" that are of much use to us. Standard physics, chemistry and biology are what we need to control our environments.
Current/Developing: Everything has a vibratory signature, from angels and love to disease and the weapons of war. Power accrues to those who understand and access those signatures and forms.
Past/Current: Humans evolved from a chemical soup by accident, random mutation, and natural selection. Keep refining Darwin.
Current/Developing: Not without periodic "boosts" from sources external to the planet. Interspecies evolution is not biochemically explained.
Past/Current: It always costs a greater amount of some form of energy to produce a lesser amount of another form of energy, e.g., the gasolene engine. Energy production is not free. We can increase efficiency, but never over 99%.
Current/Developing: Esoteric technologies are emerging to master gravity (thus space travel), produce five times the quality and quantity of food, detoxify the environment, eliminate gas engines, and extract "free" energy from the vacuum field.
Past/Current: When we die, we either rot in the grave or go to (some version of) Heaven or Hell.
Current/Developing: Reincarnation promises to become the prevailing "after life" philosophy.
and, my favourite:
Past/Current: In theory, extraterrestrial races exist somewhere "out there". But they are not here and would have no interest in us, even if they could travel here efficiently. Besides, if they were here, our governments would tell us.
Current/Developing: Extraterrestrial races have visited Earth for thousands of years and are currently in, on, or around the planet. If they are not formally recognized as of this writing (1998) they soon will be.
I've no idea whether Prince Charles believes in this stuff. All I know is that a man widely described as a significant influence on his thinking was prepared to publish it.
An afterthought: David Icke, and others, believe that various well-known figures are in fact extraterrestrial lizards who control the earth. If this were true, Prince Charles would, presumably, know all about it - he is, after all, fingered by Icke as one of the lizards. There's a bit of an overlap between the world-view of the Scientific and Medical Network and that of David Icke - an interest in supernatural forces, alien influence and the refusal of the "mainstream" to take seriously any challenges to its assumptions and agenda. Could it be that Charles' interest in what might be charitably described as left-field, esoteric new-age pseudo-science is in fact a cry for help, an attempt to tell the world that Icke is right? Perhaps the lizards are real, and it takes one to know one.