Trick Question: Which Is First - The Chicken or the Egg?
We've all said this saying at one stage or another. Usually it's in regard to a question about putting first things first. When you ask "What comes first; the chicken or the egg?" have you really thought about what you are asking? Do you know the answer yourself?
What really does come first? It's a riddle to be sure or is it a trick question? If you go by the title of this hub then it is a quick question...or maybe it's a question without a satisfying answer.
To be sure, there are both a chicken and an egg. Perhaps what is needed is a closer examination of the question itself. After all, a possible solution to many puzzles lies in this direction. Now, I'm not saying that this is a trick question. Honestly. But it is a really good puzzle based on many parameters.
Scientists and philosophers have been debating this question for thousands of years, after all. Admittedly they haven't been using the exact same question. They have instead been asking questions like: "If a tree falls in the forest and no-body is there, did it make a sound?" and "What is the origin of the universe?" and "Is there a god? And who is this God-person anyway?" This hub will not be answering those specific questions. Douglas Adams did a far better job than I could in that regard.
Given that this is a question worth investigating more fully, and it is, we'll start off with looking at the question literally and pulling out a few components. The Chicken and the egg. Maybe the answer is simple enough, and a reasonable explanation can be found right there.
Consider the Chicken
The chicken, or fowl, or the chook, or dinner, depending on what you want to call them, are classified as a bird. A flightless bird at that. They have a reputation for being, well, a bit dim. We see them as a food source, both for themselves and for their eggs.
Ah hah! I hear you saying. The chicken lays the egg and therefore the chicken comes first. QED, end of conversation, and from here on everything you have to say is invalid. You might think just that, but bear with me here. Chicken then egg.
Where does the chicken come from?
Not every egg a chicken lays is fertilized, and therefore they are eating eggs. Not that the chicken necessarily approves of this situation. Ask any hen who has had their eggs rudely removed from under them. You need a rooster to finish off the deal with the chicken. So, it's a hen and a rooster required and only then we have a chick.
But where did the first egg come from? How, you may ask, did that egg appear? Was it out of thin air. Didn't you need an egg or two first in order to have the first pair of very randy chickens?
There may be a little more to this than meets the eye.
Maybe Evolution or Creationism Will Show the Way
There's a theory or two about how life appeared on Earth in its present form. In fact there are two camps out there staring at one another with evil-eyes, but only when the other one isn't looking, naturally. The Big Two theories are known as Darwinism and Creationism. Let's look at what they have to say about the chicken and the egg.
Darwinism, as it's known for short is based on Charles Darwin's book called "The Theory of Evolution" and what it basically states is that life evolved gradually from simple to more complex forms through a series of eliminations. What worked in an ecosystem stayed and what didn't died out. This theory has a scientific basis, and is currently being investigated based on both the fossil record and current ecosystems.
The theory of evolution says that neither the chicken or the egg existed first. They came about slowly, slowly over millions of years. In fact, the first chicken and egg were most probably amoeba from the oceans.
Creationism, on the other hand, is a religious theory based on the Bible. What it basically states is that life began in its current form in recent time. The universe, and Earth formed recently as the result of a God or an outside force. And everything appeared exactly as it is now. No help there at all...
We may have to move a little further afield to answer this question.
Maybe the Philosophers are the Key
The chicken or the egg? Now, I don't claim to be a philosopher. They are deep thinkers. Very deep, in fact, and they ask the questions many of us are afraid to ask. Like "Would God ever build a rock so large that even he could not lift it?" Then, they could debate the answer forever.
The great thing about philosophy is that you can have a really snazzy question and keep on asking it over and over again. The answer matters, of course, but the question has to be right. Let's face it, the really big ones are the most exciting. The ones like "Why are we here?" and "What is that blue thing they put on my bagel this morning?" Well, maybe not the latter question, it's a bit too answerable and you may not want to know anyway.
The key here is to have a question which can keep the philosopher occupied for a long, long time. I considered finding a philosopher to ask the chicken and egg question to, but was worried about how long I would be in the room before I got an answer.
Let's face it. There'll be dust on the shelves before a philosopher has even got through the introduction to the chicken and egg question:
Verdict: They'll have an answer eventually. Come back in a century or three.
Getting Nowhere Fast
So, in conclusion, what comes first?
In searching for an answer we found out that: The egg is needed for the chicken and the chicken for the egg. It's dizzying how they go around and around. Darwin thinks that the chicken and the egg came from an amoeba millions of years ago. Creationists think that the chicken and the egg popped into existence complete a few thousand years ago, so neither.
The philosopher will get back to us a bit, um, a lot later.
Maybe the problem is not the theories, but rather the question. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Why does it matter?