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Survey on Creationism in Australia

(1)  Nielsen Poll: December 2009:

  • 23% believe in creationism
  • 32% believe God ‘guided’ evolution
  • 42% believe in natural evolution, without God

(2)  Australasian Science Magazine survey: April 2011:

This is an excerpt of the cover story from Australasian Science Magazine.  For the full story please go to the link below.  Full cover price for the article is $10.  David Wilson’s bio is below this extract.  Plain Reason does not have copyright so sections of text had to be omitted.  However, in the interests of public knowledge we regard the following extract as being within the bounds of fair reporting.

Editor’s Note: Overall findings: Australian survey coupled with Census data:  

  • 31% believe in creationism
  • 27% believe God guided evolution
  • 42% believe in natural evolution, without God.

Questions about the origins of our existence are among the most significant that a person may face. From where we came is, for many of us, crucial to understanding who we are and where we are going.

The question of whether the world was created by a supernatural being or came into existence and evolved from purely natural processes has been a source of controversy in philosophy, religion, science and politics for the past 250 years. A literal biblical perspective of humans as God’s creature, made in his own image, has influenced human notions of dignity, liberty, rights, political systems and many other areas of culture and society.

. . .  some detail omitted . . .

Our primary interest was belief in the origins of the universe and the diversity of life, where respondents chose between:

  • creationism — God created the universe, including all life, fully developed and similar to how we see it today;
  • the Big Bang and evolution without any supernatural being accounting for our origins;
  • theistic evolution — evolution guided by God;
  • some other explanation.

. . .  some detail omitted . . .

By combining the data from the Census and our internet survey we have calculated the number of Australian Christians of major denominations who believe in creationism and theistic evolution, adjusted for the proportions of inactive Christians and their beliefs, and stratified these numbers by age and denomination. We estimate that 5.3 million adults in Australia believe in creationism (with confidence bounds of between 3.1 million and 7.6 million adults), while 4.7 million Australian adults (2.3–7.1 million) believe in theistic evolution to explain the origins of the universe and life as we know it.

Therefore, the majority of Australian adults believe that God, or a supernatural being, was behind our origins. Of the 17 million adults in Australia in 2011, just under one-third (31%) believe in creationism, just over one-quarter (27%) believe that God used the process of evolution, and the majority of the remaining 42% of adults in Australia believe in natural evolution without any divine involvement.

Interestingly, although there are similar numbers of Australians who believe in creationism and theistic evolution, their religious affiliations differ. Significantly more Baptists, Independents and Pentecostals believe in creationism compared with theistic evolution – there are 3.0, 3.0 and 4.8 times more creationists than theistic evolutionists in the respective denominations. In contrast, there are 23% less creationists than theistic evolutionists with a Catholic affiliation. There is a more even split of beliefs among Australian adults affiliated with Anglican, Presbyterian and other denominations.

. . .  some detail omitted . . .

It could therefore be considered surprising that almost 60% of Australian adults believe that God or a supernatural being was behind the universe and all life, and the majority of these people do not accept the well-established theory of evolution but believe that God brought about this universe and life, fully developed and similar to how we see it today, out of nothing.

. . .  some detail omitted . . .

. . . this high prevalence of creationist belief among young adults, even in a society tending more towards secularism, widespread belief in creationism will remain in Australia for a considerable time.

David Wilson is Head of the Surveillance and Evaluation Program for Public Health at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of NSW. He carried out this study while at the University of Newcastle.


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