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Chicken or the Egg: Which Came First?

Updated on September 9, 2008

There is a seemingly age-old question as to which came first: The Chicken or the egg. This query has been a wonderful tool in debates and even simple discussion in that it drives home the point of 2 aspects of human knowledge: the lack of knowledge that we sometimes hold in even the most mundane and common fields, and the issue of perception and perspective. This article will attempt to answer that age-old question as to which is the progenitor: Gallus domesticus, or the egg.

With regards to a lack of knowledge regarding the chicken-egg query, it is understandable that we humans don't have an immediate answer, given the great period of time in the past that either the chicken or the egg would have made its appearance on the scene. This naturally brings us to perspective -not merely of the fowl in question, or its ovum, but the time it first came about.

Everyone holds a slightly different perspective on basically any and every question in life, yet, as the late William L. Murphy once pointed out, the question of whether the chicken or the egg is older, can be answered correctly both ways -as ascertained only through one's religio-historic perspective, to wit, whether a person believes in Creationism or Evolution (previously known as Darwinism).

In Creationism, from the Judeo-Christian perspective, at least, God created the world in 6 mighty days. According to James Ussher, the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh in the mid-17th century, the world was created on the 21st of September, 4004 BCE (by way of the Gregorian Calendar). For many of the more fundamental types of Christians, this is the date set in stone in their minds. Thus, given that, according to the Bible, chickens manifested on the third day (or fifth, according to your perspective) from the instant dictum of God (or Goddess or even Gods, plural, again according to a given creed). That is to say, the chicken came forth and in time laid its first egg thereafter.

The second great perspective to the chicken-egg controversy lay with those who favor Evolution, a view that an even a greater number of Christians, Jews, and even Muslims are beginning to hold today (though certainly not all of them). Of course, with evolution, the period of time reflects the time that geological formations like the Grand Canyon would have taken to form, overall which would be in upwards of 4 Billion years.Under evolutionary theory, the egg came first. Under Evolution, land animals sprang from liminal creatures that lived on both land and in the sea, much like the African Lung Fish, Protopterus Aethiopicus, which is amodern air-breathing fish that lives in both the water and on land. From this came true land animals, that eventually formed legs and were able to achieve efficient locomotion, including flight via wings, as with the chicken.

However, given that the chicken had forbearers that were not chickens, that is, the creatures which they evolved from, possibly reptiles, but most likely other bird species, the egg would have had to come first.

Thus, this is the answer: the chicken came first. No, wait: it was the egg. No, the chicken. No, the egg. No, it was George W. Bush, afraid to go to Vietnam. No, it was....

This article is dedicated to the late William L. Murphy and to Stephen Jay Gould, R.I.P. Yes, it was definitely the egg.



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    • profile image

      Tien Kai 

      9 years ago

      No problem! I love this kind of thing and will be very generous in engaging you in the future Sean. Take it easy.

    • Sean Fullmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Sean Fullmer 

      9 years ago from California

      Dear Tien Kai,

      Ah! You sound like a philosophy major. Alas, it seems like you are sidestepping basic causation, in a rather comely way. By no account, however, is the world believed (or found to be, empirically), to be without a beginning. Thus one of the two, the chicken or the egg, must hold precedence. With all due respect your opinion of "does any human being have to theorize that he or she exists..." you answer the question without answering the bigger question as when the answer is attempted, but avoid the very real existence of chickens and their gametes. This is essentially begging the question. You are referring to Rational thought, whreas I am catering to that more potent vehicle of thought (by my thinking, at least), Empricism. That is to say, that by utilizing your specifictrain of thought, you are ENTIRELY correct: we needn't even ask the question as the question verges on metaphysics. However, when I crack an egg into a pan and fry it up, it is not metaphysics nor thought that I ingest a few minutes later. It is a palpable, substantive congregation of molecules: the stuff of Empirical searching. And it is from this that my entire premise rests: one, very decidedly, came first.

      Thanks greatly for your reply, it was one of the best I've read in a long, long time. If you wish to debate this further, I am always game.

    • profile image

      Tien Kai 

      9 years ago

      Chickens come from eggs and eggs come from chickens. Neither of them are first because they are only transitory agencies of the same thing. If a thing is constantly evolving, then what we see is simply a segment of time in a things' evolution. In this sense, a chicken is only a chicken inasmuch as we can't perceive it evolving from what it once was.

      What is creation? The act of making something exist that was'nt before. This is actually the affect of evolution! Gods exists in all cultures because each cultural form seems itself permanent for which the chicken can be seen as being created. What I mean to say, is that the concept of creation distends from a limit of perception; that is, is that no one can literally perceive the process of evolution itself!

      Human thought has reached a critical limit in how it understands its own rationalisms on the nature of reality. This means to me, that creation vs. evolution is really a dialectic that is the result of conceptual compartmentalization of reality. In reality, things exist simply because it is possible - whatever avenue it decides to take.

      The real question then becomes; is God a self-evident reality that can be perceived as in experienced by everyone as the sun is to all living things on the planet. The fact is, is that this question comes from a very simple understanding: does any human being have to theorize that he or she exists as a means of actually realizing that they are existent? The answer is no! I do not have to have a thought that I exist in order to perceive I do. God and evolution are substantially not based on this simple ancient way at looking at reality. God and evolution are rationalizations that are evident compartmentalized concepts.

      Look at it this way; God implies and extra or super-natural existence that is "spiritual," evolution is the supra-natural or natural experience and is physical. The fact is, is that spirit and matter are one in the same. Thus, when they diffuse into one another, what is actually real only becomes a matter of literal experience that can be shared and corroborated by everyone!

      It does seem that when one asks the question of what came first, one is inferring time; but this is not whats's really happening. For the chicken or egg, what came first is a deliberate connundrum, that is in fact unanswerable. We can do this with other things to illustrate my point: what came first, reality or what reality is; what came first, an evolving thing or the thing that has the capacity to evolve? You see, these are in fact semantic paradoxes; only the profane views this erroneously as a hypothetical question worth some sort of query.

      The chicken/egg "controversy" is entertaining muse, but really and effect of over-rationalization. Moreover, i think you pretty much are somewhat saying what I just said, but what you need to do next is extrapolate your understanding and make it concise -crystalize it. Soemtimes this is hard to do, when you are trying not to be too brash in rejecting the traditional mental achievments of your contemporaries. But I say to you that your understanding will be laden with laboriousness and tedious super-specialization in minutiae if you don't.

      Its just my little advice for a budding young thinker.


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