Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm Responds to Criticism
Last month, Professor Alice Roberts visited Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, a creationist establishment recommended by Answers in Genesis, and wrote a highly critical report of what she found there. The Zoo Farm has replied on the Bristol culture website, and their response only adds further credibility to her strongest accusations. Since this website does not want to be accused of quote mining, I attach, in full, the Zoo’s statement, with our own comments inserted as appropriate. It should be remembered that the Zoo offers a range of what it describes as educational activities, including “an educational day out” for schools, with price discounts, on-site workshops described as being linked to the National Curriculum, and school and nursery outreach packages.
Professor Alice Roberts, from her web site
Prof Roberts tells of posters in the auditorium and children’s play area, which is presumably where the on-site workshops take place, claiming among other things that there are “30 reasons why apes are not related to man”, that humans were around at the same time as the first tetrapods (was Tiktaalik tasty, one wonders), that rates of radioactive decay were greater in the past, and that these possibilities should be considered as part of “an open, critical approach to explain what we see in the natural world.” She comments
I believe that religious fundamentalism has the potential to ruin scientific education. Apart from obscuring scientific facts, it teaches a way of thinking that is incredibly rigid. The evidence for a (very) old Earth and for evolution is overwhelming.
But believing in these things isn’t like a religious faith – it comes from a belief in evidence…. This [the zoo presentations] is, purely and simply, subversion of science to fit a religious agenda. At Noah’s Ark, you are not allowed to question the Bible. And where science and the Bible clash, every piece of scientific evidence is called into question, shoehorned into place if possible, or thrown out if it’s too dissonant.
A poster at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm disputes the common ancestry of humans and apes. Image by Pip, via Wikipedia
I can only agree; if anything, I am surprised by the moderation of her language. But it is time to see what the Zoo has to say in reply:
There has been some local interest this week in a Guardian online article written about Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm by television personality Alice Roberts (BBC’s Coast, Don’t Die Young).
The article presents Alice’s personal view on the Christian message which forms a part of our zoo and which is well known by our visitors.
We’re not surprised by her comments as she is well known as a television atheist and humanist who doesn’t like the notion of God being introduced to science.
Alice Roberts is a University Professor (a fact belatedly acknowledged at the very foot of the Zoo Farm’s statement), qualified physician, Ph.D. in palaeopathology, former University Lecturer in Anatomy at Bristol, the University of Birmingham’s first Professor of Public Engagement in Science, and author of over 30 peer reviewed articles and technical reports, in addition to four books and numerous less formal articles.
Her critique of the Zoo Farm does not even mention Christianity. It does describe religion as being based on faith (surely the Zoo Farm’s owners would not dissent from this), and criticises the Zoo Farm for treating the Bible as a source of information on scientific topics. In all of this, every mainstream Christian denomination in the UK would agree with her. So, indeed, would most Christians in the US, and even one in three US Evangelicals. Prof Roberts is, in private life, an atheist, and she is among other things a highly respected television presenter of science, but the claim that she is a “television atheist” is without foundation.
Noah’s Ark is a Christian organisation which wants to give people the scientific freedom to believe in God as part of their view of how life was made and has changed over time.
No one is restricting anyone’s freedom to believe whatever they like, but the Zoo Farm’s claim that creationism is the same thing as believing in God is a monstrous piece of spiritual pride, and, according to Theologian Canon Prof Keith Ward, “the kind of thing that brings both religion and science into disrepute.” [KW to PB, private communication].
Christianity is the leading religion in the UK and followed either casually or seriously by over 31 million people (2011 Census), an interesting statistic when compared to the 13 million people who characterised themselves as having ‘no-religion’ in the same survey. An important part of our country’s heritage and education system for many decades, like many others we believe religious discussion is still very relevant and compatible with modern society, and the field of science.
Within two covered areas at our 100 acre park we provide some discussion boards which explain the theories of evolution, creationism and re-colonisation; a new paradigm which accepts both the role of God and the complexity of the genome for evolution after an initial creation. We also question whether the biblical story of Noah and his Ark could be true and what evidence there is for a global flood – a popular story which ties in nicely with the theme of the zoo.
The suggestion that Christianity implies creationism is, as discussed above, mischievous nonsense. So is the suggestion that evolution and creationism are theories, in the same sense of the word. There is no evidence for a global flood, and if Noah’s flood is “a popular story,” or even a popular story with an important moral message, so are Aesop’s fables. Evolution is a well attested historical fact, as well as being the theoretical framework for the whole of modern biology, while creationism is a simpleminded fable based on a theology that was looking old-fashioned a thousand years ago. Re-colonisation is not, as claimed, “a new paradigm which accepts both the role of God and the complexity of the genome for evolution after an initial creation,” but an arbitrary and pseudoscientific hodgepodge that accepts the story of Noah’s Ark as history, but places it at the base of the Archaean.
Noah’s Ark is keen to promote thought and discussion for interested visitors, certainly not forcing religious views and pressuring unsuspecting families as unfortunately Alice Roberts’ article confusingly portrays.
For a scientist, Prof. Roberts [sic] article was surprisingly dominated by persuasive language and subversive opinion rather than simply a factual account of her visit, presumably with the intention of encouraging people to share her angry sentiments.
As the article makes clear, Noah’s Ark does indeed force religious views on unsuspecting families, by presenting nonsense as scientific fact. And does the Zoo Farm expect its critics to use unpersuasive language, and who or what is it accusing Prof Roberts of subverting?
It was interesting for us to see Alice with her family during her visit to Noah’s Ark, particularly her young daughter who apparently thoroughly enjoyed our indoor play barn and the large Rainbow Slide, unconcerned by posters discussing God and evolution – probably a little tedious for an energetic child. If Alice is concerned by the effect of these displays on children’s young minds, hopefully her happy daughter enjoying the zoo might allay her fears!
At the risk of aggravating the offence by drawing attention to it, I would ask what right the Zoo has to be monitoring Prof Roberts’s preschool daughter in this way, and publicising the way she spent her day there.
As a popular family attraction at the end of our busiest year with record visitor numbers, we remain confident that people are intelligent enough to make their own minds up about God, creation and evolution if they are interested in reading the discussion we provide at the zoo, and fundamentally come to Noah’s Ark for the enjoyable day out we continue to offer.
A well-known tourist attraction in the south west and winners of important industry awards including the regional ‘Access for All’ award from the Bristol Tourism & Hospitality Awards we have been recognised for providing good access for people of all religions and no religions, race, gender, age and sexuality.
For us, receiving occasional criticism for our Christian theme by opinionated atheists is not new and gives little cause for concern – fundamentally we are a popular family zoo with an excellent and well-cared for collection of animals which is enjoyed by thousands of public and school visitors each year. With the opening of the internationally recognised ‘Elephant Eden’ shortly and more exciting plans for 2014 we are looking forward to another bumper season after the Christmas break.
We enjoy Prof. Roberts television work and public contribution and wish her well in her future projects – both her and her family are very welcome to visit us again should they ever wish to.
Again, my apology for the tedious length. And again, the completely misleading equation of Christianity with creationism, coupled here with distracting remarks about equal access (is the Zoo claiming special credit not excluding gays?).
As my friend the Rev Michael Roberts continually points out, this kind of creationism is a 20th century heresy, spreading through the Abrahamic religions like a cancer, and the plain duty of church leaders is to denounce it as such. A duty that they are dismally failing to perform.
Posted on January 3, 2014, in Creationism, Education, Religion and tagged Alice Roberts, Answers In Genesis, Creationism, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Noah's flood, Recolonisation. Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.