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.