A secular group is demanding that tourism groups stop promoting a ‘creationist’ zoo which questions the traditional view of evolution. The Noah’s Ark Zoo is accused by the British Humanist Association of misleading tens of thousands of visitors annually and ‘threatening public understanding’. The BHA says the zoo farm, run by husband and wife Anthony and Christina Bush in Wraxall, near Bristol, promotes creationism - the belief that all life was created by God - and seeks to discredit scientific facts such as carbon dating, the fossil record and the speed of light. BHA director of education and public affairs, Andrew Copson, said: ‘As they are public bodies, we believe it is inappropriate that tourist boards should support establishments that seek to urge religious or ideological beliefs upon people.’
Noah’s Ark research assistant Jon 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.’ In a long section entitled ‘creation research’, the zoo’s website says Darwinism is ‘flawed’ and wants to encourage a ‘creation/evolution debate’.
Elsewhere it reads: 'God was watching over his people on the earth he had made.
'But he was not pleased with what he saw; violence and corruption plagued the earth, all the people had hearts full of evil. 'The sight of what his creation had become made God very upset. ‘God decided he would wipe away mankind and the animals on the earth by sending a great flood.’ Signs at the zoo in Wraxall near Bristol also describe how the ‘three great people groups’ could be descended from the three sons from Noah.
BHA director of education and public affairs Andrew Copson said: '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.’ The government has not allowed the teaching of Creationism to be part of the National Curriculum, but guidelines on teaching it have been issued by ministers.
Science teachers have been told they can answer questions on the subject but must make clear that Creationism has ‘no underpinning scientific principles’.
The BHA was behind the ‘atheist bus campaign’, which saw thousands of buses across Britain carrying a poster saying: ‘There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’. The Advertising Standards Authority received more than 150 complaints, but it was not deemed to have breached guidelines. Noah’s Ark research assistant Jon Woodward dismissed the BHA’s claims and said the Creationism debate was limited to posters in the indoor section of the zoo and the play area. Mr Woodward said: 'We look at the evidence that is there and it is not 100% certain that God didn’t have an involvement in the creation of the Earth. 'If it were false science we were claiming, that the Earth was created six thousand years ago and God created everything, then I could see their point.
‘We’re not saying that. You need to look at what we are saying: we are making claims to say that the facts suggest there is creation involved.’
He added that during lectures at the zoo no mention was made of Creationism and staff kept to the National Curriculum. 'It’s not hokum, it’s not rubbish science and it’s not brainwashing - we’re doing a fair job and some of the criticisms have been unfair. ‘Out of 120,000, visitors each year, of which a vast amount are made up of parents and school trips, we get approximately 10 complaints a year regarding this topic which is very low. Clearly the public do not share the British Humanist view point.’
Last year the Scout Association faced a human rights watchdog investigation over a complaint that it discriminates against non-religious members. The association’s refusal to admit those who will did not make a promise to God forces youngsters to lie as there is no alternative for atheists, the National Secular Society claimed. North Somerset Council spokesman Steve Makin said it awarded the licence for the zoo based on whether or not it promotes an understanding of animals and the natural world. The religious beliefs of those in charge is not a factor.