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September 14, 2010

Book launch debacle a blow to Ireland's scientific reputation

***From our Ireland correspondent, Dick Ahlstrom***

Ireland’s science minister Conor Lenihan has been in the wars over the past few days, all over a simple book launch planned for Wednesday 15 September. But while the launch was straightforward enough the book wasn’t, a tome declaring that evolution is nothing more than a fantasy and a hoax.

The Origin of Specious Nonsense by John J May is a rambling, pointless book that purports to smash the “theory” of evolution. It readily disregards the abundance of scientific research across many disciplines that shows quite clearly that evolution is not a theory but accepted mainstream science. Even the Catholic Church readily agrees, but not Mr May. Enough said.

Lenihan started a firestorm of tweets, emails and news copy after he accepted an invitation to attend and speak at the book launch, hardly an event warranting the involvement of the government’s science minister. Lenihan declared he was attending not as minister but as a friend of the author and the local member of the Irish parliament.

Just as things started to heat up May withdrew his invitation, claiming the abuse levelled at Lenihan was unfair. The junior minister readily accepted the dis-invitation and will now retreat, left to consider whether the loss of an evening out in his constituency was worth a possible threat to his continuance as a minister.

If for no other reason he should have been scared off by the evening’s description as a “Gorillas and Girls” event with Charles Darwin and King Kong on hand to lend their support. One can only wonder what lasting effect this stunt might have on Ireland’s reputation abroad as a good place to do science.

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