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Please Let Us Go to the Zoo, Dr Roberts!

High School ScienceDr. Alice Roberts is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham[1]. That’s Birmingham, England. This is a post similar to that once held at the University of Oxford by fundamentalist atheist Richard Dawkins. Like Dawkins, the chair appears to have been specially created for her, as Roberts has for a number of years become something of a television personality in Britain – I remember her being part of what I considered to be an excellent BBC series called Coast[2]. Also like Dawkins, Roberts is a publicly confessed atheist – she is one of the so-called “Distinguished Supporters” of the British Humanist Association[3].

Dr. Alice Roberts

Dr. Alice Roberts

Writing this week in The Guardian – a left-wing, anti-monarchist newspaper in Britain[4] – Roberts decided to criticize Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm on the grounds that it is creationist. The beliefs of the founders and owners of the zoo are not secret – they can easily be found on the tourist attraction’s website.

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is situated in the heart of rural Somerset, England, in the village of Wraxall, yet is easily accessible from the nearby maritime city of Bristol. Anthony Bush, who can trace his ancestry back to the ancient Plantagenet dynasty of English kings, has farmed the site for decades, but in 1997, he and his wife Christina began to turn the farm into a zoo. Central to the establishment of the Zoo Farm was their faith – including their belief that the Bible is true from the very first verse. At this point, I must declare a personal interest. My children and I visited the zoo many times, when living in Wales, and my daughter, Gemma, did her post-16 internship at the zoo. Though their creationist beliefs are open and honest, they are not actually “in your face” at the zoo – though I absolutely love Anthony’s Gospel presentations from his Noah’s Ark presentation room.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

My daughter, Gemma, working at Noah’s Ark in 2004

Roberts’ article was scathing[5]. She actually believes that places like Noah’s Ark Zoo farm are dangerous.

I left knowing that I wouldn’t want my children to go on school trips there. Why do I feel such strong antipathy? I’m pleased to live in a country where people are free to express their opinions, so why do I care so much about a few posters in a zoo? It’s because, like Richard Dawkins, I believe that religious fundamentalism has the potential to ruin scientific education[6].

Despite her belief that the place is dangerous, she clearly felt that it was safe to take her young daughter to the zoo, who apparently had an enjoyable time. One must suppose that Roberts felt confident enough that she would be able successfully to deprogram her daughter from all that wicked Christian fundamentalism! But her confidence in her own ability as an atheist parent does not extend to other parents.

It is what Roberts considers the propaganda content of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, to which she objects. The subtitle to her article suggests that parents will be “bewildered” and children’s education “undermined”. Roberts is part of that new breed of fundamentalist atheists, who have set themselves up as the priesthood of scientific opinion forming. The article gives the impression that ordinary people are too stupid to be able to think for themselves, and clearly far too unintelligent to be allowed any influence at all over the beliefs of their children.

Anthony has made an excellent and reasoned response to the Guardian article[7]. Tellingly, he points out that:

For a scientist, Prof. Roberts 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.

Far from trying to indoctrinate anyone, Anthony states:

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.

Although I do not agree with every aspect of Anthony Bush’s unique form of young earth creationism[8], I am happy and proud to endorse Anthony Bush as a brother, who is seeking to glorify God and present the truth of Scripture, in a land, which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is open on Saturday December 14th 2013, then every Saturday during January 2014. Their main season begins on February 1st 2014. Details on admission prices, and directions to get to the zoo, can be found on their website.

 


[2]http://www.bbc.co.uk/coast/experts/ >, accessed December 11th 2013

[5] Why I Won’t Be Going back to Bristol’s Creationist Zoo, < http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/08/wont-go-back-to-creationist-zoo-bristol >, accessed December 9th 2013

[6] ibid

[7] A Statement from Noah’s Ark, < http://www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk/pages/plan-your-visit/news-blog.php >, accessed December 11th 2013

[8] Anthony Bush holds to a version of creationism called Recolonisation, which holds that the earth is 20,000 years old. See the final section of my article at < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/how-did-animals-spread > for my comment on this theory.

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