Science Minister Lenihan to launch book calling evolution a hoax

Update: Irish Science Minister Lenihan withdraws from launching anti-evolution book

Conor Lenihan, Ireland’s Minister of State for Science, is to launch a book this Wednesday that describes evolution as a scientific hoax. He says he is doing this because the author is a friend of his. This is an abuse of his Ministerial position, and an attack by the Irish government on both scientists and science education.

Last year Minister Lenihan told a Science Foundation of Ireland summit that

“The relevance and value of science must be continually communicated to the general public, and how it is articulated is vital in defining how science is perceived. The task of communicating the message that ‘science matters’, that ‘science delivers’ and, above all, that investment in science in Ireland is value for money and an integral part of our economic development must be addressed by all across the scientific community.”

Minister Lenihan is now advancing this noble vision by attending a ‘Gorrillas and Girls’ party and a photo shoot with Charles Darwin and King Kong, where he will launch the book, The Origin of Specious Nonsense, written by his friend John G May. This is the type of argument that appears in the book to which Minister Lenihan is giving the credibility of his Office:

“The Empire State building cannot be supported on a styrofoam coffee cup from Dunkin Donuts, nor a rocket go to the moon on a litre of petrol from Shell, nor the sea fit into a child’s bucket on a Californian beach, yet there is more chance of all three happening (which never will) than for the awful soul destroying fiction of evolution to be true. The frog never changed into a prince, the gods of Egypt are fantasies, Dracula never existed, the King was naked, and evolution is a demonstrable hoax just as surely as Santa Claus.”

Of course, this is the same Conor Lenihan who five years ago described Turkish workers in Ireland as ‘kebabs’ during a Parliamentary debate. Lenihan was then Minister for Overseas Development and Human Rights; in the magical world of Irish politics, he was later appointed Minister for Immigration policy.

Minister Lenihan is always liable to surprise us. Perhaps he will change his mind about promoting attacks on scientists and science education. Or perhaps he will fall asleep while launching the book, as he did during a live telephone interview on TV3 in 2005.

Book launch Wednesday 15 September 2010
Buswells Hotel Dublin



Michael Nugent


  1. Avatar
    JohnMWhite September 13, 2010

    The gods of Egypt are fantasies? Might want to let the authors of the Bible know that, they’ve marked down THEIR god as ‘executing judgements’ on all the gods of Egypt. It would be a bit silly for an omnipotent, invisible deity to be running around chasing fantasies now, wouldn’t it?

    I understand the quote from the book could well be the worst of it, rather than an example of its overall quality, but judging from its tone (and the title) I very much doubt the author has the least interest in a genuine critique of evolutionary biology and is instead simply going to trumpet on for two or three hundred pages about how foolish everyone is who doesn’t believe in the exact interpretation of a bronze-age book that he believes in. I’ve seen it so many times that it has become somewhat disappointing; no one seems able to challenge evolution, and those who try inevitably succumb to just parroting their own religious background to a like minded audience who will nod along with each and every… well, I won’t use the word argument, but each and every assertion in the book.

  2. Avatar
    Anonymous September 13, 2010

    Embarrassing and enraging. The fellow’s website is a joke. Reading through excerpts of the book online, there are more spelling and grammar mistakes than in a primary school copybook.

    This is like Mary Harney attending the launch of a book about how witchcraft can cure cancer. Though let’s not give her any ideas…

  3. Avatar
    Joe Collins September 13, 2010

    As an Irishman( living abroad) what deep shame to hear a Government Minister spouting such garbage and hostility to the proven scientific fact of evolution by natural selection.
    Ireland needs all the support and goodwill now to help it overcome its present economic difficulties and enhance its worldwide reputation.
    It does not need an ignorant clown of a “minister” to sully its name.He should be fired and made to pass a Science Exam at a basic level.The Irish electorate deserve a general Election now!!!

  4. Avatar
    BrianH September 13, 2010

    That’d be Wednesday 15th September (in case your calendar brain works that way like mine) – you wouldn’t want to miss it…

    In case you’re wondering what this John J May fella looks/sounds like, here’s a preview:

  5. Avatar
    Stonyground September 13, 2010

    The thing that the anti-Darwin brigade need to get through their incredibly thick skulls is that a scientific theory only ever falls when it is overtaken by a better one. Nowadays it is very rare for a theory to be completely overturned. Recently an existing theory is more likely to be refined as more information is incorporated into it, than completely replaced. Nevertheless, it remains possible that Darwin will one day be proved wrong, pretty unlikely now but possible in theory. If it happens though it will definately not contain any reference to anyone’s invisible magic friend.

  6. Avatar
    Richard September 13, 2010

    How embarrassed I feel to share a country with this moron..

  7. Avatar
    Dubhghaillix September 13, 2010

    Can we tack on an ammendment to the blasphemy one requiring mandatory psych evaluations for all politicians to make sure they’re not batshit???

  8. Avatar
    Ben Klaasen September 13, 2010

    If ever an example were needed that Irish politics is pure clientelism, this is it.

  9. Avatar
    Gavin Tobin September 13, 2010

    I heard an advert for this shite on Newstalk today.

    The author is a god nut and is denying evolution for religious reasons.

    I can’t but help wonder has this advert broken the BCI’s guidelines on religious advertising via the back door?

  10. Avatar
    Bock the Robber September 13, 2010

    I’m embarrassed. Truly embarrassed.

    At least his brother has the excuse that economics isn’t a real science.

  11. Avatar
    Sinead September 13, 2010

    Lets all go and throw things?

  12. Avatar
    nozzferrahhtoo September 13, 2010

    Your passion is commendable sinead, but your means do not meet your ends in this case. If you want to throw anything, throw some emails at Mr. Lenihan, throw some support emails to the admins at Atheist Ireland, and throw some recommendations at your local radio stations to ask why our Science Minister is, in his official capacity, launching an anti science book 🙂

    But simply throwing things… nah….. things deserve to rest where they are 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Faithless September 13, 2010

    Not that I would condone any sort of violent protest but if something were tho be thrown it would have to be a kebab 🙂

  14. Avatar
    Brian Rogan September 13, 2010

    People need to turn up on the night and voice their disapproval at Mr Lenihan’s abuse of Ministerial position, it’s a disgrace!!

    You can also send an email of complaint on his webpage –

  15. Avatar
    Anonymous September 13, 2010

    You should have a look at the Minister’s reponses to an Atheist Ireland member. I particularly liked the part where he told Nozz to ‘relax’. I suppose at least he didn’t say ‘chillax’ though it’s not much of a silver lining…

  16. Avatar
    AOB September 13, 2010

    Sorry did I miss something? Did evolution move from being a theory to a fact? Did questioning a theory (no matter what your reasons) now become an attack on science? Did we remove the right of free speech?

    Like everybody else here I haven’t read his book and like everybody else here (I assume from the tone) I won’t be reading his book. But you are starting to sound a little too much like those you are lampooning. Lets not get carried away.

    Chill out for Science’s sake!

  17. Avatar
    faithless September 14, 2010

    @ AOB The author of this quite book clearly has little understanding of science or evolution. Of course anyone with the relevant knowledge, education and experience should be able to question any theory but this man has none of the above. His book is quite simply antiscience with a religious agenda; a quick read of the excerpts from the book on his website will show you this. That said he is free to publish whatever he likes any no one here is saying he should not be. The problem is that the Minister with responsibility for science and technology is helping to promote this antiscience.

  18. Avatar
    faithless September 14, 2010

    According to the Irish Times the Minister has pulled out of the book launch. Not on their website yet but on the front page of todays print edition

  19. Avatar
    Anonymous September 14, 2010

    @AOB This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. This man is legally entitled to tell almost any tale he chooses and I’m happy for him to do so. But to have the science minister support him in an official capacity is a different matter and we do have a right to protest to our elected representatives about their official actions. Now he’s not going we’ll all relax as he suggested and Mr. May can have his book launched without state support.

  20. Avatar
    nozzferrahhtoo September 14, 2010

    “Did evolution move from being a theory to a fact? ”

    Why would it? Do you know what “Theory” means in science? It does not mean the same thing as it does in every day speech…. an “idea”.

    “Theory” in science is something higher than fact. Theory EXPLAINS facts. There is no day in our life time that… for example…. “Atomic Theory” is ever going to be renamed “Atomic Fact”. It will simply never happen. Because “Theory” is the highest award you can get in science.

    The issue here is not about questioning science. IT is about reintroducing a question that has not already been answered many times…. sometimes in US court of laws… but a question that has brought us little benefit and caused much divisivness, harm and pain… often legal and often financial…. and more often than not at the expense of our education system.

    Our issue with the minister is not him asking the question…. but for quite literally having no basic upon which to ask it at all. There is nothing in science that warrants the asking of this question… and given his purvey is that of science…. there is nothing in his role as a minister that calls upon him to ask it.

    Let the author write his book! and let us all read it! I know I will! But endorsement from our minister of science is not warranted as this book is NOT science and that border needs to be acknowledged.

  21. Avatar
    Bipedalhumanoid September 14, 2010

    He has just announced that he is pulling out of the book launch.

  22. Avatar
    Alfonso Armenta September 14, 2010

    Evolution is a fact. It has been observed. Go and look up ‘antibiotic resistance’ and learn something before you write.

    That fool Mr May can write whatever book he likes, that’s not the point, the point is that the Minister for Science supports it! Science!!!

  23. Avatar
    Adam M September 14, 2010

    Nice of him to pull out, but not good enough that he backed it in the first place. May can publish to his heart’s content (maybe a sequel called Answers in Genesis…?) but unless it contains well researched scientific rebuttals of both evolution and natural selection it shouldn’t be supported by Lenihan in an official capacity.

    So we’ve got a minister for science who backs garbage like this masquerading as science, a minister for justice who introduces a blasphemy law, and a minister for education who doesn’t know the difference between “Einstein’s theory of evolution” and, presumably, Darwin’s theory of relativity…? 😉 No wonder the country’s going down the tubes – too many saints, not enough scholars.

  24. Avatar
    Sean Doherty September 14, 2010

    He might have a point. Surely people that dim-witted should have become extinct by now…

  25. Avatar
    demotic September 14, 2010

    More international recognition (of the wrong sort)…

    You have to question the judgement of a minister that supports this, especially after hearing his “diversity of opinion” response. There’s a lot of evidence for the theory of evolution. Not so much for the “god did it” idea.

  26. Avatar
    Gordeaux September 14, 2010

    Maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s all a hoax – implying that it is a prank which has primarily led to people being abused by religious folk.

    Then again, maybe gravity doesn’t exist and physics is overrated.

    But, if the frog never turned into a prince, then who made up that story?

    Those damn children’s book authors…scumbags, the lot of them.

  27. Avatar
    Curbcat September 14, 2010

    This story is making my blood boil with rage…..I feel like staging an angry protest outside the house of the author of this ridiculous book! Mr Lenihan should be ashamed- in fact he should step down from his position…he is a disgrace to our country.

  28. Avatar
    Simsisgod September 14, 2010

    Don’t watch his You Tube videos.

  29. Avatar
    Robert Malseed September 14, 2010

    I gladly take on John May. As a sport scientist I take special interest in Exercise Biochemistry, which if one looks at it – Exercise and Sport Science is a study on how an organism develops and adapts.

  30. Avatar
    Mairead Ryan September 14, 2010

    Conor Lenihan is clearly not being kept busy enough at work that he has time to involve himself with such unadulterated rubbish and claptrap. Are there any really intelligent people in government?

  31. Avatar
    Bill in SF September 14, 2010

    Joe Collins, the Minister himself isn’t spouting anti-evolutionary nonsense, and Ciarán MacAoidh, the Minister isn’t supporting him in official capacity. John May, the author, is having a launch party for his book, and Lenihan’s showing up as a celebrity to help him have a good time.

    As long as the ministry’s not paying for the booze, there’s nothing abusive about it, and maybe he’ll even give his friend a ride home, seeing as how anybody who’s written a piece of crackpottery that bad obviously won’t be sober enough to drive themselves.

    Alas, it seems that Lenihan’s pulled out, and he won’t have to embarrass his friend by reading passages from that book. At least in the traditional press, you’d have to work with an editor who’d force you to fix your spelling and try to make some sense; self-publishing doesn’t have those stuffy limitations, and it really shows.

  32. Avatar
    Adam M September 15, 2010

    “Publish and be dumbed”, to misquote the Duke of Welly…

  33. Avatar
    Anonymous September 15, 2010

    @Bill. Not quite true on my point. The Minister’s office confirmed to me and several others (I talked to Colin Dunne) that he was attending as the Minister. He was down as Minister on the invitation literature and was only removed as such at around ten o’clock on Monday. The Examiner reported the story in a fairly vague way that made it look like he wasn’t. Even if he wasn’t he can’t switch off his ‘ministeriness’ when he’s doing official TD business either and if he’s naive enough to think his title won’t be used by those he supports, I really worry.

    On Joe’s point, you’re right the Minister isn’t spouting creationist nonsense directly but he is showing how uneducated he is on the subject by spouting the creationist argument of ‘equal time’ when he says he believes in “diversity of thought”: He clearly has no idea that the scientific debate is overand the ID crowd have never put up a single piece of evidence that has not been thouroughly refuted. The two sides are not equal and the Minister is not aware of this.

  34. Avatar
    Pawna September 15, 2010

    Let’s keep the issue focused squarely on Connor Lenihan. Mr. May has every right to publish his books, whether or not you agree with him. It’s free speech, and it is a wonderful thing.
    However, evolution by natural selection is a fact, something that the minister for science in any country should be aware of, and this is further evidence that Mr. Lenihan is not capable of doing the job he is paid to do. Going to the launch “because Mr.May is a friend and constituent?” As a funnier fella than I said yesterday, does this mean Mary Harney could go to a constituent’s book launch if he was advocating witchcraft as a cure for cancer? That is a very apt analogy.
    It is time that Ireland caught up with the late 19th century and get rid of Mr. Lenihan before he does any more damage to Ireland’s future, education, reputation or economy.

  35. Avatar
    Pat Lee November 13, 2011

    Are there people who are atheist and don’t believe in evolution and feel the answers to our existence is yet to be known? No one can prove that we were created by God and no one can prove we evolved from that one celled creature from the sea. Too bad we don’t open our minds, look at what evidence we have and continue to search out the most important question of all. Where did we come from?