Friday, 28 August 2009

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm - insidious creationism in the UK

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

This week, the creationist Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol hit the headlines after the British Humanist Association appealed to various public bodies to stop endorsing it, and warned that local children are being taken there on educational visits.

I actually visited the zoo earlier this month, and have written a feature on it for our forthcoming September issue. We've just put it online, so have a read and let us know what you think? Is the zoo a threat to public understanding of science? Is it a sign of a rising British creationism? And if so, what should be done about it?

Let us know by commenting on this post.

30 comments:

Hydra said...

I can't help but feel that if this sort of attraction continues to be allowed to exist in such a premeditatedly covert fashion then it is setting a precedent which strengthens the creationist position.

I have no issue what so ever if they proclaim and clearly state their religious view and leanings but to interlace science with theological fluff WITHOUT establishing the religious objectives here is more than a little under hand.

If we allow this to go unchecked then ultimately creationism will continue its insidious perversion of the public’s understanding which can only breed confusion and doubt where none should be and thrust creationism forward as a valid argument but spreading ignorance. This, needless to say, strikes me as something which should be stamped out as soon as possible.

After all, if their view point is so "right" and "accurate" why not advertise that this is what the attraction is all about?

PaulJ said...

"Insidious" is apt, and unfortunately in line with what we have come to expect from creationists. Until reading the report of your visit I wasn't too concerned about "Noah's Ark Zoo", but if they are insinuating pseudoscience into the explanatory material then they are likely damaging the education of young visitors.

The fact that they have material specifically targetted for the National Curriculum is particularly worrying and the BHA are right to protest.

That this is only one small creationist outfit should not encourage complacency. The voice of creationism in the UK is as yet small, but it is well established, as I discovered earlier this year.

nomonkeybusiness said...

Hi read your report. You seem somewhat confused. It seems from what you say that the problem with the zoo is that they need to be far more explicit about their creationist views. On the other hand you seem intent on saying that they should not be allowed any public forum for their creationist views. Sorry, but people are free to beleive what they wish. Some write books saying that human origins are to be traced to Africa others that they are to be located in Asia. Get with the real world, Not everyone shares your views and they should be as free to air them as you.

PaulJ said...

"Not everyone shares your views and they should be as free to air them as you."

Fair enough, if we are talking about responsible adults. But we're talking about children who are likely to be misled by creationist nonsense. That's the problem - creationism isn't simply an alternative equally valid view; it's egregiously wrong anti-science.

pikeamus Mike said...

Nomonkeybusiness:

Everyone is of course free to express their views and I'm sure nobody here would campaign to have any views censored. However, we do think it is irresponsible for education agencies to endorse an institution that peddles a religious (and factually incorrect) viewpoint as scientific.

We don't want the zoo to be forced to close (though I for one wouldn't mourn it's passing) we just don't want kids going there on school trips.

Paul said...

I looks like God has been ignoring the Zoo's plee to help bless the new Tiger enclosure - I hope this isn't proof that god doesn't exsist (or maybe that God doesn't like creationist zoo's!) http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/Noah-s-Ark-Zoo-Farm-baby-tiger-dies/article-1274148-detail/article.html

MikeTheInfidel said...

nomonkeybusiness:

Yes, everyone is entitled to their own views. But they are not entitled to their views being correct, or being taught to children.

On another note: I wonder where Noah got koalas from, in the middle of Palestine...

pikeamus Mike said...

MikeTheInfidel:

One really wonders why people would choose the story of noah's ark as the old testament story worthy of defence. It really seems to me to be the most proposterous story in the whole damn thing and thats saying something.

They might be better served attempting to prove the exodus, at least that doesn't have overwhelming evidence that it couldn't have happened (if you ignore the parting of the sea bit) just no evidence that it did.

Side note: Why the hell do these places always have the animals being saved in pairs, ignoring the section that says there should be 7 pairs of the "clean beasts" and 1 pair of the unclean.

PaulJ said...

"...the section that says there should be 7 pairs of the "clean beasts" and 1 pair of the unclean."

Not forgetting that all these pairs of "clean beasts" were strictly monogamous, when it would have made sense to take more females than males - if the animal re-population of Earth was the main concern.

dawno said...

I don't think I was an exceptionally intellegent child, albeit, I certainly was a sensitive one. I knew when I was being drawn in or preached to, and I knew the difference between what felt like education and what felt like propaganda.
It won't be a zoo that sways a population of children to believe in creationism... but rather their own individual sensitivity to that type of teaching. And, really, they're going to get that more from their own families than they are from looking at exotic animals and enduring a bible-story bit to go along with....

AG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AG said...


[...] The sign introducing the gibbons was uncontroversial, but around the side of the enclosure was a giant poster explaining “30 reasons why apes are not related to man”, which argued that biological differences, such as apes’ possession of 24 pairs of chromosomes to humans’ 23, “prove” that there is no relationship between the species.[...]


Funny they should mention this particular fact, since comparison of human and chimp chromosomes actually provide strong evidence that man and apes share a common ancestor:

Ken Miller on Human Evolution:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

Original Nature paper:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7034/full/nature03466.html

Less technical explanation:
http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm

thegentlemanadministrator said...

How depressing that this kind of place can spring up in the UK. A recent post at the Dispersal of Darwin http://tiny.cc/LfpC4 features a children book authored by the arch-creationist Dr Gish which features a similar dinosaur on the ark moment, I foolishly thought to myself, 'typical American creationist'... Huh, well it looks like there other here in the UK to stay as well.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that you all support the fact that our children are indoctrinated with the THEORY of evolution as though it was an irrifutable FACT, and then diride a couple who are trying to put forward an alternative and widely believed alternative theory. I thought that humanists supported free speach, thought and ability to investigate all the possibilities. How can our children do this if we only let them see one side of the coin.
Nobody actually knows the truth except maybe God, oh but then he is just a figment of my wild imagination, isn't He ?

Anonymous said...

1) Yes he is a figment of your imagination, in my opinion. See, that's an opinion about what is true and what is not because I can't prove absolutely the existence of absence of a God. But since I haven't seen any evidence for fairies either, I'm prepared to assume neither fairies or a god exist.


2) Creationism is not a belief about something which cannot be proven, like whether Posh Spice looks better with short or long hair. It is a belief in the opposite of evidence, despite the evidence. So it's not just the other side of the coin it's actually encouraging adults and children to ignore evidence and that was is what offends the other people on this blog. Humanists do support freech speech and thought, but with an expectation that the thought is considered and openminded, considering all the facts. So, if we have evidence showing we are descended from apes and yet you think it's okay to show kids a poster saying we are not descended from apes is that rational thought?

Eric said...

I find it hard to believe that grown rational beings can actually believe that the Ark actually existed and contained for a period of time representatives of all species that exist. Practicalities aside, a big ask I know, but what made Noah put all the lemurs back only on Madagascar, along with 75% of the other species that are only to be found there? what made him do this? why was he so selective? Why am I wasting my time typing this? The solid scientific evidence that supports evolution is everywhere around us in the natural world, open your eyes. These deluded creationists who try to use pseudo scientific arguments combined with the, ah but God did it, makes one light headed at the very thought. The last point I would like to make is, you creationist should get out more, walk in the mountains, look at the sky and see this wonderful earth for what it really is, a product of over 4.6 billion years.

PaulJ said...

"I can't believe that you all support the fact that our children are indoctrinated with the THEORY of evolution as though it was an irrifutable FACT, and then diride a couple who are trying to put forward an alternative and widely believed alternative theory."

The scientific theory of evolution is not irrefutable - but so far nobody has come up up with compelling evidence that refutes it. In fact, practically every new discovery in genetics or paleontology provides further evidence in support of the scientific theory of evolution. (Note that I use the phrase "scientific theory" - which means that scientists have proposed a hypothesis and been unable to falsify it. The scientific theory of evolution is, as a result of this application of the scientific method, as near to a scientific fact as is the theory of gravity.)

As for "an alternative and widely believed alternative theory", the number of people who hold any particular belief has no bearing on the truth of that belief.

Tom Rees said...

The specific problem with the school is that it provides services to schools (they pay the zoo, and take kids to it as part of their biology teaching). If it does that, it needs to conform to the curriculum. The science curriculum excludes creationism, for obvious reasons.

If the kids are being taken there on a theology trip, then sure, why not.

Anonymous said...

Delighted to see that the zoo has an inclusive equal opportunities policy. That couple of giraffes united under the rainbow flag of tolerance and love is an inspiration. Stonewall UK will be proud to see how far the creationists have come. :)

Burning Fence Post said...

I have actually been to this place, its quite near to where I live. We took the kiddies and attended a "talk" about how they feed the animals, and there was creationist material interweaved in the farm stuff. At the time I was a bit shocked, but the kiddies to too young at the time to notice.

They're getting a lot of stick at the moment, for Trojan Horsing creationism to children, but, I must say it is called "Noah's Ark" so that's a bit of a give away if you ask me.

I'd rather have a local creationist zoo, than no local zoo.

oeditor said...

I've seen several accounts of this zoo and this paints an even worse picture than most. It's bad enough for them to push a creationist line when they're open about it but when they mix their nonsense insidiously with science it's really bad. Children can be diverted from overt preaching but to slip in creationist lies could leave children unaware that they're being led to a fail in their biology exam.

Oh, and did Miranda Stevenson say that she'd had a barrage of complaints about their crationism and brushed them all off? At least the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has taken a more robust attitude and said that they would not be allowed to join.

mollok said...

They give people "scientific" validation to believe in god? do they realize how stupid they sound? God is not scientific, nor should you need "scientific reason" to believe in him--religion is SEPARATE from science for a reason! Believe what you want but don't call it science; at least stand up for what you believe in!

mrsonewattle said...

As if they weren't bad enough...http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8310757.stm

Anonymous said...

I have never been to the Zoo, but sincere Atheists should not step foot over the threshold nor allow their children over it; was it not obvious with a Noah's Ark sign- an overt and commonly acknowledged religious symbol! The same children should not be allowed into any place of worship, museum with any religious symbolism on exhibit, theatre with a religious reference, cinema showing a film with any reference to religion, TV programme with any religious content or characterisation, across the border of any country with any religious symbols or buildings, to mix with friends of differing beliefs, to read any book, magazine, website or article with a mention of religion or differing views, be told stories of Santa, Halloween, tooth fairies-all of the above, totally irrational. There are clear DCFS guidelines on discussing creationism- all above board. There may be an issue with the Zoo's creationist literature, I agree but let your children embrace the world, the whole world, whilst you can... life's a beach and then you die! PS I am a rational scientist and a creationist and proud of it, why are we always known as insidious or pervasive? I challenge anyone to read as much creationist literature and see as much footage on creationism as I have on evolution and not be challenged as to the plausibility of the evidence- just open your minds!

Anonymous said...

If you're a creationist, you're not "rational" or a scientist. You're a moron.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I've read a LOT of creationist literature. I make it a goal to read as much as possible that I disagree with. Precisely to open my mind, the problem is that there are only ever 5 arguments: irreducible complexity is impossible without god (natural arches prove this is wrong), things are complicated and must thus have a more complicated origin (try playing Conway's Game of Life and you'll see that simple rules can make very complex results), gaps in the fossil record (fossils are rare, it's an annoying fact of life), lack of intermediates (there are literally thousands if you look in any good sized museum) and beneficial mutations are impossible, these have been observed again thousands of times, in fossils, in the lab, in DNA studies, in the wild etc etc etc. I have been to scores of websites and read enough books, there aren't any other arguments. They're all wrong. If you've read a book I haven't then please please tell me the argument that convinced you. Because I'm passionate about being right. If creationism is true then I want to know about it. What's the evidence I've missed?

PaulJ said...

"I have never been to the Zoo, but sincere Atheists should not step foot over the threshold nor allow their children over it..."

Atheism has nothing to do with whether creationism is true or not. There are plenty of Christians who understand that evolution by random mutation and natural selection is far and away the best explanation for how life on this planet came to be the way it is. These same Christians also understand that creationism and intelligent design are unscientific nonsense.

Creationist literature does nothing more than attempt to pick holes in evolutionary theory. It offers no alternative explanation (other than "Goddidit" — whether "God" is some kind of deity or some other unspecified and unexplained being), and therefore disqualifies itself from legitimate scientific consideration.

Anonymous said...

An organisation called CAPS has gone undercover and exposed a sick, evil animal trading going on! the BC have run a major segment on this and the zoo's future looks shaky. But don't cheer yet, they'll be praying like buggery, so perhaps they'll manage to hang on to their licence. It also helps that there are sympathetic fundies in Somerset County Council.

Check out The BBC Report.

Anonymous said...

This Zoo have now had their BIAZA membership suspended while they have their frankly appalling record of animal management investigated. They show no signs of being aware of the ethics of animal keeping & husbandry, or any wish to educate themselves in these matters, which is unforgivable.

Anonymous said...

Just received a trial copy of mag (about to subscribe as I like what I see!) and so glad to see that this so called "attraction" is being exposed. Several years ago I was tricked into visiting by an organized trip from my daughter's creche. I was shocked at the religious messages they were delivering with no warning that this was the farm's "belief"! What a bunch of tricksters! My worry is that it allows Christians to delight in that their beliefs are given validity by being presented alongside scientic fact. Is there some trade description clause that states that a place that takes money from customers should give explicit information about their service/product?