A new study has found a generational shift in the belief in the abilities of a god.

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

The overview of the last 32 years of annually-assessed student opinions makes it clear that belief among students that a god is the ultimate or contributing cause of human origins has steeply declined.

It was a majority view in 1986, but had become 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, researchers polled first-year biology students at UNSW Sydney about their views on evolution and creationism.

In 1986, 60 per cent of students believed a god had something to do with the origin of humans, while 29 per cent 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 per cent in 1986 to 62 per cent in 2017.

From 1986 to 2017, every student attending UNSW’s first-year biology course was invited to complete a one-item poll on a strictly anonymous basis, with the results 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

The extent and pace of decline in 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 per cent range, four times that seen in our Australian survey,” Professor Archer says.