32-year Australian study reveals steep decline in student belief that God created humans

August 21, 2018, University of New South Wales
The top figure shows the percentage of students who, between 1986 and 2017, choose one of four options in relation to the human evolution: (1) humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years (green); (2) humans evolved over millions of years with the whole process guided by God (blue); (3) humans evolved over millions of years but God had no part in this process (red); or (4) they are uncertain what they think (yellow). Figures include lines of best fit from linear and quadratic regressions with 95% confidence intervals. The bottom figure shows the percentage of the wider Australian public who have declared in national censuses between the years 1986 and 2016 that they have no religion. Credit: UNSW

Australian university students give far more credit than the previous generation to the science of human evolution and far less to creationism or divine guidance, according to a landmark new study.

In an overview of the last 32 years of annually-assessed student opinions, it is clear that belief among students that a god is the ultimate or contributing cause of human origins has steeply declined from being a majority view in 1986 to being a small minority view in 2017. Conversely, conviction that humans evolved without divine involvement of any kind rose steeply over the same period to become the dominant view among students.

Every year since 1986, the researchers polled first-year biology students at UNSW Sydney about their views on evolution and creationism. In 1986, 60% of students believed a god had something to do with the origin of humans, while only 29% held this view in 2017. In contrast, the percentage of students convinced that a god had nothing to do with the origin of humans increased from 25% in 1986 to 62% in 2017.

The findings—published today in Evolution: Education and Outreach - are the longest continuous annual of opinions about creationism versus evolution among first-year university students world-wide.

Professor Michael Archer, lead study author and Professor at UNSW Science's School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, says the original intent of the poll was to assess the level of commitment among incoming students to supernatural explanations for our origins.

"Given that the creationist view (that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years, rather than evolved naturally over millions of years without the involvement of God) is common among American students, we wanted to know how much of a challenge introducing the evidence for evolution to first-year students would be for us in Australia," Archer said.

"We also wanted to know if Australian student views about this key issue were changing over time."

From 1986 to 2017, every student attending the first-year biology course was invited to complete a one-item poll on a strictly anonymous basis. An average of 530 students a year participated in the survey. The results of the relevant year's survey—and of all previous years—were always openly presented to the class in the following lecture.

Each student was handed a slip of paper and asked to circle one of the following four options, the one with which they most agreed:

  1. God created people (Homo sapiens) pretty much in their present form at sometime within the last 10,000 years.
  2. People developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the whole process, including our development.
  3. People developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.
  4. I honestly have no opinion about this matter.

Analysing the survey results from the 32 years (Fig. 1a), the researchers identified two main findings.

"First, the percentage of our Australian students endorsing the creationist option (the first one of the four) has been consistently small, averaging 10.4%, and slowly declining to less than 5%," Professor Archer says.

"Second, there has been a striking cross-over in the opinions of the successive cohorts of students. In 1986, 60% of the students endorsed either the creationist option or the theistic, god-guided evolution option (the second of the four above). By 2017, the proportion of students endorsing either of these theistic options had fallen to 28.8%.

"Conversely, endorsement of the non-theistic option rose from 25.1% to 62.2%. This rise appears to mirror the fall in endorsement of the theistic options."

Reports of long-term trends in views about the origins of humans are rare and, in most cases, limited to surveys of adult populations in the USA and, more rarely, other areas of the world.

The extent and pace of decline in the Australian students' commitment to religious views about divine creation, especially creationism, is in distinct contrast to the corresponding beliefs among American students and the American public.

"In the USA, belief in creationism, while slowly declining, appears to have remained in the 40% range, four times that seen in our Australian survey," Professor Archer says.

The fact that commitment among Australian students to this view, the only one that involves refusal to accept evidence that humans have evolved from other animals, has always been low—and declining, suggested to Archer's team that no extra effort was needed to communicate to first year students the scientific evidence for .

The team has proposed additional strategies to better understand these long-term changes in viewpoints. "There may be value in running a similar annual survey in some of the high schools that contribute to a majority of the incoming students to this university," Archer says.

"Slight changes to the national census questionnaire to enable a more detailed assessment of long-term changes in public opinions about these issues would be valuable, too, although already it is clear (Fig. 1b) that a steep decline in religious commitment has been occurring in the general public as well."

The authors also suggest that to assess the potential impact of university education on the opinions expressed by students, it might be useful to run the same survey with as many as possible of the same cohort of students over their next three years of their undergraduate education.

Explore further: Students' perceptions of Earth's age influence acceptance of human evolution, says study

More information: Michael Archer et al, Thirty two years of continuous assessment reveal first year university biology students in Australia are rapidly abandoning beliefs in theistic involvement in human origins, Evolution: Education and Outreach (2018). DOI: 10.1186/s12052-018-0083-9

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marcush
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 21, 2018
Well its only been 150 years since The Origin of Species. About time!
Plutonic
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 21, 2018
Perhaps the Australian students are more inclined to think outside the religious box, and have actually pondered the implications of the model of life that exists on our planet, where a large proportion of creatures must kill and consume other creatures for survival, giving rise to an endless cycle of fear, pain and suffering along with all that beauty.

It might have occurred to the students that, if our world was created by a god, it can only have been done for the god's own amusement - after all, there was surely no need to create any world at all, let alone this one. Many students might find it easier to accept that life evolved spontaneously and "is what it is", rather than it having been created by an entity that willfully inflicts terrible pain and suffering on countless living things by design - and expects to be thanked for it.
Cusco
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 21, 2018
Good. Congratulations Australia.
leetennant
4.2 / 5 (6) Aug 21, 2018
Perhaps the Australian students are more inclined to think outside the religious box, and have actually pondered the implications of the model of life that exists on our planet


No, we just have less religious wackos here. Australia hasn't had the same historical problems with fundamentalists in our school system that America has (although there's a definite sharp trend to Americanise our schools). Our syllabus is almost entirely evidence-based, religious schools aren't allowed to tread religion into standard subjects and we haven't traditionally had members of parliament who advocate for subjects to be hijacked by nonsense. Also, our tradition of public education has meant that we don't have the church interfering to such a large extent in schools.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 22, 2018
Creationists always spell God the Creator with a capital "G" - never a small 'g'. This is respectful, just as much as saying to a Judge, "your honour" or "her majesty, the Queen".
Not all Creationists have rejected the theory of Evolution, but it is mostly those who are members of any particular Judeo-Christian religion who have embraced the misinterpretations in Genesis, and have a firm belief that animals have not evolved since the creation of the first single-celled life forms in the waters of Earth. We Creationists accept evolution as a natural state of change - for the sake of improvement, or change for the sake of adaption to a new environment.
But we also believe that the first humans were CREATED by God, and therefore had no need to evolve as animals and plants evolve.
As far as college students anywhere in the world - what they choose to believe is a personal preference, whether or not it was taught to them from books, college professors, or family and friends.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 22, 2018
We Creationists understand well that each individual is given the right of free choice - or free will.
And what each individual chooses to do with their free choices is strictly up to that person. Some choose to be good and to do good things for others in their community. And others choose to murder, rape, abuse and make trouble. But all eventually have to face the consequences of their path in life, the road they have taken.
We Creationists have also made our choices, and that choice is, most of all, to honour our Creator and to make the right choices in life that will not go against His Commandments. Those Commandments which are, incidentally, quite logical and reasonable, as well as not hurtful to our fellow humans.
Some of us have the ability to see our God and talk with Him. Those who don't believe that it can be done are free to disbelieve all they want. There is no trick to it - no imaginings or delusions - it just is as it should be. We are content with our faith.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 22, 2018
And, we don't go about proselytising for our beliefs. We are of the opinion that each human individual is tested and also must face the temptations of being human, such as it is. Those who fail and succumb to the many temptations will, understandably, have to face what befalls them, and I can assure you that it won't be pleasant.
Why, you may ask. There are two sides of this coin. One side is the world that you see; the world that you are able to detect with all of your senses. You look through a big telescope to see parts of the Universe and you think that it has all come about by itself - without any help. Presto and after some billions of years, it's there.
But there is the side of the coin that you DON'T see, the side that is JUST AS REAL as the side of Mass/Energy, galaxies, quarks, bosons, muons, etc.
IF, by chance, those college students aren't religious, that's fine.
After all, long before there was such a thing as "religion". there was the Creator.
Schreiber
4.6 / 5 (10) Aug 22, 2018
@Surveillance_Egg_Unit spends three long paragraphs boring us all blind with what he believes. He finally finishes up with: "...we don't go about proselytising for our beliefs."

And just to cap it all off, and to make sure we all get the message, he issues the usual thinly-veiled threats about the ultimate judgement he imagines his god metes out to everyone after they shuffle off.

See, it's fantasies of salvation and divine retribution like this, among other nonsense, that assure the slow but inevitable death of Christianity across most of the West.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 22, 2018
@Surveillance_Egg_Unit spends three long paragraphs boring us all blind with what he believes. He finally finishes up with: "...we don't go about proselytising for our beliefs."

And just to cap it all off, and to make sure we all get the message, he issues the usual thinly-veiled threats about the ultimate judgement he imagines his god metes out to everyone after they shuffle off.

See, it's fantasies of salvation and divine retribution like this, among other nonsense, that assure the slow but inevitable death of Christianity across most of the West.
says Shreiber

LOL I assume that you were interested/curious enough to force yourself to read all 3 of my posts. There is nothing wrong with reading the posts of someone, whether you agree or disagree with its context.
I see that you have a problem with Salvation and/or Divine Retribution - and that's fine. I have no problem with your having a problem with it. It IS your choice, after all. Be happy with it.
ugosugo
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2018
I find very troubling that 5-10% of biology students are creationists.
These should be an "enlighten" portion of Australian society, and you should indeed expect a 0% of creationists and a 10% of creationists with an identity crisis.
I guess the general Australian population has a percentage of creationists approaching that of the US hillbillies. VERY SAD!
antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2018
Perhaps the Australian students are more inclined to think outside the religious box

It's a lot simpler than that: They are not confronted with the religious box to begin with.
humy
5 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
Surveillance_Egg_Unit

First you say evolution is true and then you say we humans were created by a god ANYWAY and you don't appear to see the problem with that.
If evolution is true then no need for a god to create us thus, by Occam's razor, we should dispense with the now completely superfluous "we humans were created by a god" bit at the end of "Yes, evolution is true. But we humans were created by a god ANYWAY. The god hypothesis is an unnecessary one no matter how you look at it; it really doesn't help 'explain' anything in the pure-logic sense but rather just leaves yet more unanswered questions.

antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2018
First you say evolution is true and then you say we humans were created by a god ANYWAY and you don't appear to see the problem with that.

Weeeeerl....if one were really picky one could say that we're talking about two things here.

Abiogenesis and evolution. Evolution only kicks in after abiogenesis. So a godder could claim that god created the first bit of life and let evolution go on from there.

However, even that doesn't work, because the whole notion of abiogenesis rests on the idea that one can absolutely delineate "alive" from "not alive" - which is pretty much disproven with the existence of viruses.

So yeah...it's evolution all the way down.
humy
5 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
First you say evolution is true and then you say we humans were created by a god ANYWAY and you don't appear to see the problem with that.

Weeeeerl....if one were really picky one could say that we're talking about two things here.

Abiogenesis and evolution. Evolution only kicks in after abiogenesis. So a godder could claim that god created the first bit of life and let evolution go on from there.
Arr but, if I understood him correctly, he implied god created humans directly i.e. he would say we didn't evolve from 'simpler' life forms (and he might also reject the scientific form of abiogenesis i.e. one not involving something supernatural).

antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2018
Arr but, if I understood him correctly, he implied god created humans directly i.e. he would say we didn't evolve from 'simpler' life forms.

Sure. i was just poking a bit of light fun
S_E_U is as crazy as they come. There's no point arguing with someone who doesn't have a brain.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
Surveillance_Egg_Unit

First you say evolution is true and then you say we humans were created by a god ANYWAY and you don't appear to see the problem with that.
If evolution is true then no need for a god to create us thus, by Occam's razor, we should dispense with the now completely superfluous "we humans were created by a god" bit at the end of "Yes, evolution is true. But we humans were created by a god ANYWAY. The god hypothesis is an unnecessary one no matter how you look at it; it really doesn't help 'explain' anything in the pure-logic sense but rather just leaves yet more unanswered questions.

says humy

Evolution is true for the descendants of the first single-celled animals/plants that were created in the waters. Those animals/plants had no DNA and only later formed DNA to pass onto offspring when they divided and later multiplied cells. They evolved over billions of years to become the animals and plants that exist today.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2018
-CONTINUED-
@humy
Animals and plants existed long before the creation of H.Sapiens by the Deity which anti_P profanes with glee, unabashedly. H.ergaster and H. erectus were in the region also.
But those animals dropped their DNA into the soft clay as they passed through; that clay from which the first human was created by the Creator Himself.
Man was a type of animal due to the DNA that already was within the clay that was made into the form of a man. He had no mother and father, and therefore his only history was in that DNA from the clay that had been "polluted" with animal DNA.
There is a natural separation between Man and animals/plants, in spite of the sharing of DNA to some degree. While animals and plants have evolved exponentially through billions of years, Man has only evolved in very few and subtle ways. But ALL animals and plants are made of trillions of cells that have the ability to communicate with each other - quite amazingly. That was programmed into them.
leetennant
5 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
Perhaps the Australian students are more inclined to think outside the religious box

It's a lot simpler than that: They are not confronted with the religious box to begin with.


Kind of what I said but simpler and clearer, thanks. We also don't believe in reincarnation or Thor.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
Many believe in Reincarnation, particularly those from India. There have been a few recorded instances, for example, where a young boy of about 5 years recalled his past life and related to his parents and others an exact history of a man who had lived and died in that same village where the boy was born. He told his story of his past life as that very same man quite convincingly, and it was all corroborated by people who had known the man.

There are many other examples also, but the vast majority of them happened in India. Perhaps the strong belief in Reincarnation amounts to some who had believed - being able to come back to life in another body. Perhaps it is the Soul that is reincarnated and definitely not the physical self.

Ahhh Thor - the Norse god of yore - the son of Odin and Freya - and keeper of thunder; responsible for changes in the weather.
One of my favorite movies, btw.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
I find very troubling that 5-10% of biology students are creationists.
These should be an "enlighten" portion of Australian society, and you should indeed expect a 0% of creationists and a 10% of creationists with an identity crisis.
I guess the general Australian population has a percentage of creationists approaching that of the US hillbillies. VERY SAD!
says ugosugo

If you are an atheist, or whatever you consider yourself to be, WHY be so concerned that some biology students believe in God the Creator?? You seem to have the false notion that Creationists are not also scientifically-minded, and who wish to learn as much as possible about God's Works. There would be NO such thing as science with ALL of its NATURAL LAWS without it first having been created by the very FIRST SCIENTIST.
It is easy to see that a large majority of humans don't have an appreciation and thankfulness for that which God has created. Perhaps humans believe that it all came about by itself.
zz5555
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
Kind of what I said but simpler and clearer, thanks. We also don't believe in reincarnation or Thor.

Wish that were true here in the US. When I lived in California, it was pretty good. Not too many people took religion seriously, at least where I lived. I had to move more inland for my job and there's plenty of religious nuts here. I do worry about my daughter getting corrupted in school. I try to point out the known errors in the bible and how it's worthless as a reference book. I'd like to point out that the bible shows that god is evil, but I'm afraid she'll tell the kids at school that and I don't see that ending well. Maybe when she's older.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2018
First you say evolution is true and then you say we humans were created by a god ANYWAY and you don't appear to see the problem with that.

Weeeeerl....if one were really picky one could say that we're talking about two things here.

Abiogenesis and evolution. Evolution only kicks in after abiogenesis. So a godder could claim that god created the first bit of life and let evolution go on from there.
Arr but, if I understood him correctly, he implied god created humans directly i.e. he would say we didn't evolve from 'simpler' life forms (and he might also reject the scientific form of abiogenesis i.e. one not involving something supernatural).

says humy

I will put this as gently as possible. If humans were not created separately from animals/plants, then it would be fair to say that humans are the same as cattle and can be slaughtered, cooked and eaten with impunity, since they are no better than other animals from simpler life forms. OK?
TrollBane
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2018
SEU wrote: "If humans were not created separately from animals/plants, then it would be fair to say that humans are the same as cattle and can be slaughtered, cooked and eaten with impunity..."

So you have nothing else but the supposed divinely created status of mankind (creation by an authority figure invoking fear of punishment) to keep you from slaughtering, cooking and eating people? Illuminating. Once again it's the ones who insist no one can be good without an omnipresent watchdog who perhaps need the most watching.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2018
Nobody that I know has ever said that humans can't be good. That is a false statement you have made in an oh-so sanctimonious way. I have stated many times that humans have the ability to make their life choices. There is no one looking over your shoulder, so you are free to do as you like. If the idea of a Deity strikes fear of punishment in your heart, then you must be doing something wrong, yes?
There are many atheists/unbelievers who are good, and even charitable, people. And there are those who pretend to be good, such as Catholic priests, who are evil pedophiles, pederasts, and homosexual priests - who have taken vows of celibacy and have chosen to do evil instead.

CHOICES are made that determine the human path for good or evil - and it is choices that determine the punishment, if warranted.

Perhaps it is YOU who will make the choice to slaughter, cook and eat humans, since they are on the same level as cattle and nothing special.
leetennant
4 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2018
SEU wrote: "If humans were not created separately from animals/plants, then it would be fair to say that humans are the same as cattle and can be slaughtered, cooked and eaten with impunity..."

So you have nothing else but the supposed divinely created status of mankind (creation by an authority figure invoking fear of punishment) to keep you from slaughtering, cooking and eating people? Illuminating. Once again it's the ones who insist no one can be good without an omnipresent watchdog who perhaps need the most watching.


@Trollbane tell me about it. We have this whole running meme on Twitter about the fact that the only thing keeping Creationists from raping, killing and eating their corpses is God.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2018

http://www.debunk...rey.html

Perhaps leetennant and trollbane never knew that those, like Jeffrey Dahmer, (who raped, killed, cooked and ate young Black boys) were ATHEISTS. There was also the man in Germany who met men on the internet, saying that he wanted to cook and eat a man, while his victim agreed to allow him to kill and eat him. They were ATHEISTS.
There have been many other "incidents" of men killing and eating other men and boys, very seldom girls and women though. ALL ATHEIST CANNIBALS.
NO FEAR OF PUNISHMENT/REPRISALS. Just did as they felt like doing without fear of punishment.
Creationists are believers in the Creator who are very aware of their special status, and live their lives accordingly.
Cannibalism is most often found amongst Atheists because they don't fear punishment in an afterlife. Like Jeffrey Dahmer, they believe that life only consists of NOW - and this is it.
Ojorf
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2018
Looks like some people really do need a god to keep them in check. Only the fear of eternal damnation keeps them from giving their evil natures full reign.
The rest of us have empathy and compassion.
Schreiber
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2018
S_E_U must be getting desperate. He's resorting to all caps to try and prop up his silly arguments. And- Thor help us- still banging on about divine punishment.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2018
Wish that were true here in the US.

Yah, it's sorta perplexing. The only places that go for this batshit insane religiosity is the US and then places like Afghanistan.
Not even in countries like Iran are the actual populace that fanatical when it comes to religion.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2018
The only places that go for this batshit insane religiosity is the US and then places like Afghanistan
Belief in god is inversely proportional to appreciation of evidence... something aa ought to ponder when he apes this sort of brainless bullshit.

"Americans are in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to importance of religion"
https://www.wikipedia.org
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2018
Funnily enough, wiki has an entry for afrophobia but not for Amerophobia. Is this because one is considered abnormal while the other is not? Which one is which I wonder?

Which one is political ergo artificial? Both perhaps at different points in our history, promoted for similar reasons, but to the same gullible sorts of people?

Thank god we have wiki nowadays, eh aa?
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2018
They did not provide many options in the list of 4 choices in the survey, particularly:

1. God created people (Homo sapiens) pretty much in their present form at sometime within the last 10,000 years.

Instead of 10,000 years, that should have been left blank so that the student(s) could fill it in with the number of years that was more appropriate in their view/opinion/belief.

2. People developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the whole process, including our development.

This gives the early humans more autonomy to make their own choices, but under the watchful protection of their Creator. It also gives credence to the clay from which man was created, and offers the logical reason as to why humans share DNA with animals.

All in all, it is an interesting process by which the young students get indoctrinated into atheism without their even realising it.

Surveillance_Egg_Unit
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2018
Looks like some people really do need a god to keep them in check. Only the fear of eternal damnation keeps them from giving their evil natures full reign.
The rest of us have empathy and compassion.
says Ojorf

The rest of us? Who are you referring to when you say "the rest of us"?
So, I suppose that it is safe to say that Ojorf is capable of doing anything he damn well pleases, even if it is disgusting and evil, because he has NO FEAR of eternal damnation.

And your spelling is atrocious - it is REIN - NOT REIGN. Unless you are referring to the reign of the Queen.

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