Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, a creationist zoo in North Somerset, has again been awarded Learning Outside the Classroom’s (LOtC’s) Quality Badge. The scheme, which is designed to recognise ‘providers offering good quality learning outside the classroom’, was established at the initiative of the Department for Education, and still cites Government support. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Professor Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham and President of the Association for Science Education, have together written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, to express concern at the Zoo’s recognition. Julian Huppert MP has also tabled a parliamentary question.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has been the subject of repeated controversy over the nature of its creationist displays. The Zoo promotes a theory known as ‘recolonisation’, which not only goes against the theory of evolution, but also more common young earth creationist beliefs.
In the letter, Mr Copson and Professor Roberts write to Michael Gove that ‘Contrary to what the Council for Learning Outside of the Classroom states, it is clearly not the case that this organisation offers good quality learning outside the classroom; indeed, the Zoo’s approach runs contrary to Government policy on the teaching of creationism… The Department for Education has made it repeatedly clear that young earth creationism and related theories are incompatible with the established scientific consensus, and therefore should not be taught as such… It is therefore difficult to see how a school visiting such a Zoo is compatible with the Government’s policy on creationism. We urge you to intervene to ask the CLOtC to rescind this award. We also ask if you would request that the CLOtC changes its assessment criteria to properly consider whether awardees promote pseudoscience, and reject those that do.’
Meanwhile Julian Huppert MP has tabled a parliamentary question ‘To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment he has made of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom rewarding establishments who promote creationism with a Quality Badge award.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The overwhelming body of scientific evidence and strong scientific consensus support the theory of evolution as the only valid explanation for the nature and diversity of life. Giving credence to other theories such as young earth creationism and intelligent design is to go against this evidence and consensus, and is no more sensible than teaching children that homeopathy is more effective than a placebo, or that the earth might be flat.
‘For this reason the Government has sensibly said that state schools should not teach creationism as scientifically valid. We therefore urge the Government to put pressure on Learning Outside the Classroom, an organisation it endorses, to similarly stop giving credence to groups taking a contrary view.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.
Read Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts’ letter: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014-02-04-Letter-to-Michael-Gove-re-Noahs-Ark-Zoo-Farm.pdf
Read more about the BHA’s work on science, evolution and creationism: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/science-evolution-and-creationism/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.