'Creationist' Zoo Facing Criticism from Humanists

Posted Aug 27, 2009 by Chris Dade
A zoo in the Southwest of England whose owners, according to the zoo's website, believe in what they call "Creation plus evolution", has come in for criticism from the British Humanist Association (BHA).
A Sign at Noah s Ark Zoo
A Sign at Noah's Ark Zoo
Opening for its first full season in 1999, Noah's Ark Zoo, in Wraxall near Bristol, is owned by husband and wife Anthony and Christina Bush.
Promoted as a place to visit by tourist organizations such as South West England and Visit Britain the zoo, which the Daily Mail reports attracts 120,000 visitors a year, has until now seemingly steered clear of any great controversy, although it has not escaped criticism altogether. The British Centre for Science Education has been one of its critics.
But now the BHA has contacted a number of tourist organizations, South West England and Visit Britain amongst them, to request that they stop promoting Noah's Ark on the basis that the zoo is "misleading" its visitors and "threatening public understanding". It further accuses the zoo's owners of trying to discredit scientific methods and facts that include carbon dating, the fossil record and the speed of light.
Rejecting the claims by the BHA, Research Assistant at Noah's Ark Jon Woodward emphasized that references to Creationism could only be found on posters within the zoo's indoor section and play area. He added that when lectures were held at zoo for visiting schools they did not depart from the National Curriculum and mention Creationism in any way, unless a request to do so was made. According to the Guardian he also stated that neither did the zoo hide its view of how the earth and the creatures who populate it came in to being, pointing to the name Noah's Ark as an indication of their openness with regard to their beliefs.
In explaining more about the philosophy Mr and Mrs Bush, and presumably many of the staff at Noah's Ark, subscribe to, Mr Woodward said:We are offering our visitors the chance to look at the evolution/creation debate. As it is a free country, that is within our right. We are slightly different from popular creationism. We hold a view that the natural world around us is the product of both God and evolution. We do not hold the stereotypical creationist views that the world was created in 6,000 years
Within schools themselves Creationism is not taught in any shape or form, but if asked by students to explain it as a belief or theory, science teachers are told to underline that it has "no underpinning scientific principles".
Speaking to clarify the position of the BHA, which has pointed to signs at the zoo claiming that "three great people groups" could be descended from the three sons of Noah as further proof of the agenda its owners were pursuing, Andrew Copson explained:We believe Noah's Ark farm zoo misleads the public by not being open about its creationist agenda in its promotional activities and by advancing misunderstandings of the natural world. We have therefore asked the South West England and Visit Britain tourist boards to stop promoting the zoo. As they are public bodies, we believe it is inappropriate that they should support establishments that seek to urge religious or ideological beliefs upon people in these ways
Commenting on the situation with regard to Noah's Ark, the subject of only ten or so complaints each year relating to its support for a form of Creationism says Mr Woodward, Steve Makin of North Somerset Council stated:The licensing of zoos does consider education in so far as a zoo must promote an understanding of, and concern and respect for, biodiversity, animals and the natural world. The zoo licensing system therefore does not comment on or is involved in personal beliefs