The first issue that arises in developing a typology for ideas about creation and evolution are the terms themselves: they are sufficiently ambiguous that their meaning differs even by the same author in the same work. This can be part of a fallacy of equivocation or it can simply mean the terms are general and should not be expected to carry a technical meaning unless that is specified. Let’s take the latter path and use them as general terms.
Some authors promote creation only whereas others promote evolution only but there are other ways of speaking. Some speak of creation by evolution which means evolution but a Creator is given credit for it. Others speak of evolution by creation which means progressive creation but evolution is given credit for it. These are categorized under evolution and creation, respectively.
Further, creation used to mean static creation, that is, life, the earth, and the universe were created in a state that has not significantly changed. Also, evolution used to mean only gradual evolution, that is, life, the earth, and the universe have changed gradually but drastically over a long period of time.
Others combine creation and evolution in a kind of partnership. Creation with evolution makes creation primary but acknowledges something like evolution within created limits. This dynamic creation differs from the older conception of a purely static creation. Evolution with creation applies to others who make evolution primary but acknowledge something like creation within evolutionary limits. Evolution with large catastrophic or saltational changes differs from the older conception of a purely gradual evolution.
So we have six possibilities under the two headings of creation and evolution:
|1. Creation (e.g., static creation)
|4. Evolution (e.g., gradual evolution)
|2. Creation with evolution (e.g., dynamic creation)
|5. Evolution with creation (e.g., saltational evolution)
|3. Evolution by creation (e.g., progressive creation)
|6. Creation by evolution (e.g., theistic evolution)
Of these six, 1, 2, and 3 acknowledge an explicit Creator but 4, 5, and 6 consider a Creator to be undetectable even if acknowledged (as in 6). All but 1 have some form of evolution in the general sense of the word. All but 4 have some form of creation in the general sense of the word.
So creation and evolution are general concepts that can work together in different conceptual schemes. The question is not “creation or evolution” but how much of each one and which came first? It’s easy to see how creation could come first; it’s harder to see how evolution could. The standard retort is that abiogenesis (the beginning of evolutionary life) is a different subject from evolutionary biology but that does not answer how evolution could start. Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell is a further challenge to the view that evolution could come first.
The evolution paradigm begins by doubting ancient peoples and ancient history. They’re all seen as primitive peoples with worthless myths. Compared to modern societies and technologies, they don’t have anything to offer us. We should dismiss them, ignore their writings, and start from scratch. It’s no wonder we come up with evolutionary theories that place modern society at the top of the process and feed the modern ego.
The changes we observe must be extrapolated back in time. There’s really no other option. The past is just more of the present. We get very excited about even small changes because we run with them as far as they will go. With this paradigm we can imagine explanations of everything from astronomy to zoology. Even ancient history can be studied but only within the evolution paradigm.
In contrast, the creation paradigm begins with taking ancient peoples and histories seriously. Not that we naively accept them. In fact we find much to question. Many ancient writings have little concern about the truth. They puff up a particular people or king. There is clearly much exaggeration going on. But there is one people who have a genuine interest in truth. Their writings show the bad and the good about themselves. One set of writings in particular they carefully copy to avoid mistakes or changes creeping in over time. Can it be that this is the key to ancient history?
Yes, this book, the Bible, is the key to understanding ancient history. Compared with it the writings of other peoples are mostly legends and myths. We can even see much of the other writings as corruptions or exaggerations of people described in the Bible. For example, the ancient Greek myths can be seen this way (see the Parthenon Code, for example). Many cultures have stories of a great ancient Deluge. The Bible shows us what really happened.
From the Bible we note several salient historical facts: (1) the universe and the earth began a relatively short time ago, (2) all life forms began a relatively short time ago, (3) something happened at the beginning to make a paradisiacal world into a flawed world, (4) a catastrophic worldwide Deluge happened in very ancient times, and (5) an explosion of language differences happened in very ancient times.
These historic facts form the backbone of the creation paradigm. A few inferences from these facts tie them to things we observe today: (1) all life forms observed today are biologically related to the life forms at the beginning, (2) major geological features originated with the Deluge and its effects, and (3) all languages observed today are linguistically related to the language used by the earliest people.
The creation paradigm is based on ancient history but is open to scientific investigation today, which can provide details and explanations that fill out the paradigm. However, such science is secondary to the historical facts of the creation paradigm. This paradigm does not feed the ego, either ancient or modern. It glorifies the Creator.
Which paradigm is superior? The one that explains the present with reference to the past or the one that explains the past with reference to the present? How do we explain a person? Do we explain their past by reference to their present state or do we explain their present state by reference to their past? The latter. That is the only consistent approach to the past and present.
The strangest thing about the creation-evolution debate is that it is a trichotomy, not a dichotomy. There are three basic views and the historical creationist position is hardly known today.
The traditional (ancient, really) creationist position is that the world is the same as it was when first created. There has been no significant change in the earth, the heavens, life, etc. The classical variant of this view does not include a Fall. But historically Christian creationists have not made much of the Fall — even today the Fall does not figure in our models as much as the Flood.
The traditional creationist position was undermined in the 19th century because of the discovery of species in fossils and bones that did not match contemporary species — extinction is a change that traditional creationism did not allow. This is the view the Darwin argued against and it is the view that evolutionists still argue against today.
Evolutionists use the word “evolution” ambiguously but creationists use the word “creation” ambiguously, too. If there is any significant change in the world since creation, then there is something other than creation going on. A different word would help to distinguish that.
Creationists make the job of evolutionists easier by letting them argue against traditional creationism and not a modern creationism, for example, that Henry Morris wrote about (as he promoted the dichotomy view).