Reaction to the debate

by Don Batten

Of the 1,100 present, 423 filled in a response sheet following the debate. Of these, 42% normally attended the host church, 47% attended another church and 11% were non-churched. Quite a few of the non-churched were from the Queensland chapter of the Australian Skeptics, who came to support Dr Willis.

The survey asked for respondents to say where they stood in terms of belief in evolution (0) or creation (10), or somewhere in between, before and after the debate. Over 80% of church attendees rated themselves 10 (thoroughly creationist) before the debate, whereas 13% of non-churched rated themselves a 10. Only one church attendee rated themselves a thorough evolutionist (0), or 0.3% of those responding, whereas 35% of the non-churched rated themselves similarly. The average scores were 9.5 for church attendees vs 3.5 for non-churched.

Shift in attitudes with the debate

Overall, 87% of people did not record any shift in attitude, 6% reported a shift towards creation and 6% recorded a shift towards evolution. (Of the unchurched, 10% reported a shift to evolution, and 13% to creation.) On the basis of these overall figures, one might be inclined to call the debate a draw, or at least a very close call.

However, we need to take into account the pre-debate positions of people. People who rated themselves ‘10’ could not register a shift towards creation due to the debate, so this would favour the evolutionist debater. Conversely, people who rated themselves ‘0’ (evolutionist) before the debate could only register a shift towards creation, not evolution, thus favouring the creationist debater. We need to omit those who were already creationist (rating=10)—73% of those surveyed— from the analysis of any shift towards creation. Conversely, we need to omit those who were already evolutionist (rating=0)—only 4.3%—from the analysis of any shift towards evolution.

When we do this, a very different picture emerges. Overall, of the people who were not already completely convinced of evolution (405 people), 7% moved towards being more evolutionist. Of those who were not already completely convinced of creation (115 people), 26% moved towards being more creationist (see Table).

  Overall Churched Unchurched
Total YP mid Older Total YP mid older
Moved towards evolution % 7% 6% 6% 7% 3% 15% 12% 9% 25%
Moved towards creation % 26% 32% 46% 22% 27% 15% 16% 25% 0%
Results of a survey of 423 people conducted after the debate. YP=18–29 years; mid=30–49 years; older=50+. Those who were thoroughly evolutionist (0) were excluded from the calculation of the percentage that moved towards evolution and those who were thoroughly creationist (10) were excluded from the calculation of the move towards creation.

The only category of people that did not register a move towards creation was the older group of the unchurched, a group heavily weighted by the presence of people associated with the Queensland Skeptics.

After the debate, a significant number of non-Christian university students surrounded Carl, who was greatly encouraged to find that their questions, which went on for some time, were no longer on creation-evolution (that objection to faith apparently having been dealt with) but on the nature of God, why Christianity vs the other religions, etc.

The host church, which strongly supports creation ministry, was very pleased with the event.

The entire debate, is available from our bookstore. Order your copy today.

For the report on the debate, click here.

Published: 20 April 2006