Evolution-denying book causes Ireland Science Minister’s embarrassment

Ireland’s Minister for Science, Conor Lenihan, is facing criticism this week for his involvement in the launch of a book describing evolution as ‘a scientific hoax’ and ‘an utter impossibility’. The book’s website on Monday advertised that the Minister would launch the book, The Origin of Specious Nonsense, on Wednesday, but by Monday night it emerged that the Minister had pulled out of the event and his name had been removed from the website.

The book’s cover says that the author, John May, ‘has developed a passionate hatred for the toxic fiction of evolution as it poisons reason, obscures hope and elevates matter above a maker.’ In the book, he says ‘it is sacrificing reason on the altar of treason to accept that the greatest construction of all time — a human being with a brain is the result of chance, random selection and destructive mutations.’

Dr Aoife McLysaght in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics in Trinity College Dublin, said, ‘he’s using this device, which many people do, which is taking a smattering of scientific facts and then saying, look, isn’t this complex and amazing and then making this leap to creation rather than evolution.’

The invitation to launch the book came from the author, who is a constituent and friend of the Minister’s. May said that the Minister Lenihan would have dissociated himself from the contents of the book at the launch. The Minister made the same point himself, saying that ‘people who might argue that in some way I was giving support to the views in the book are really getting it quite wrong.’

‘Had I attended I would be making a very fulsome defence of the importance of science in this country and to its future economic and social well-being,’ said Lenihan.

The Labour party (opposition) spokesman for education and science, Ruairi Quinn, said ‘Conor Lenihan has effectively disqualified himself as a competent minister for science in even attempting to be associated with a book launch where somebody is denying evolution.’

Quinn did not accept that the Minister could distance himself from the contents of the book. ‘The idea that Conor Lenihan could as a Dáil deputy [MP] represent himself in a personal capacity at a launch of a book and leave his ministerial duties aside is contradictory and illogical,’ he said.

The Minister rejected Quinn’s criticism, saying ‘I would remind Ruairi Quinn that there is a great many things you could say about him over the years in his career as minister which I would think should cause him cause for reflection. The writer, May, said that these comments were ‘disgraceful’ and ‘ignorant because Ruairi Quinn hasn’t read my book, which is pro-science.’

The Minister felt that a line had been drawn under the matter. ‘There is no issue as far as I’m concerned. The matter is closed. If people want to get excited about it, that’s their business.’

May offered a prize of €10,000 for proof of evolution, though this prize is no longer mentioned on his website. Dr McLysaght, who last year published evidence in a paper titled Recent de novo origin of human protein-coding genes in Genome Research, recently appeared on radio with May and asked him if she could have the prize. ”I did work last year where I demonstrated the evolution of human genes from non-genes in chimps. I said “Can I have the prize please?” But he wouldn’t let me have it. I have plenty of good sorts of things I could do with that [money],’ said McLysaght.

Martin McKenna

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