The Chicken or the Egg?

For some obscure reason, it seems that one of the questions which humanity as a whole has taken a profound interest in, is the famous “which came first; the chicken, or the egg?” How answering this question affects our lives and the technological or spiritual endeavours we pursue, I do not know. Personally, I would much rather have kindergarten teachers stimulating their toddlers minds with more important questions, such as “does the Higgs boson exist and what are the implications if it doesn’t?”, or “is religion really a necessity for ethical systems?” However, since these questions come up much less frequently, the standard chicken or egg dilemma remains. For millennia, philosophers (not famous ones, mind you) have tackled the question, without proper answer. For, if the chicken came first, how did the egg come about? And on the contrary, if the egg came first, who could have laid it?
The really confounding conundrum is, that the question is actually not that difficult. First, let us inspect a little further what we mean by chicken. Obviously it cannot mean today’s domesticated, commonly-slaughtered-and-devoured hen, for there are many other birds who lay eggs as well, and we know for certain that some of them preceded the chicken. Likewise, the question cannot be reduced to “which came first; the bird or the egg?”, since modern science and paleontology advocate that lizards and other reptiles existed much before birds, and in fact birds are evolutionary decedents of reptiles. We can keep going on, and since we do now know the exact evolutionary course of all living beings, and keeping with the nature of the dilemma, we rephrase the original question to “which came first; the first egg-laying creature, or the egg?” At first it might seem like a more general and therefore more difficult question; after all, chickens have been studied intensively, while “the first egg-laying creature” is an amorphic life form that hasn’t gotten much academic attention. But this is quite the opposite of the truth as we will immediately see.
I do not know what the first egg-laying creature looked like, so if you showed me a series of animals, I could not point out to any specific one and say, “this, this is the first egg-laying creature!” In fact, it would have been indistinguishable from any generic “animal”, if it weren’t for one exclusive trait: it lays eggs. If it didn’t lay any eggs, it would never have gotten the apt name “egg-laying”. Thus, many years ago, when life was simpler than it is today, the world was devoid of eggs, and neither “egg” nor “egg-laying creature” existed. Then, at some moment (the exact time of which I do not know) some creature produced an egg, and immediately two objects that were never before came into being: the egg, and the egg-laying creature. Neither can exist without the other, and therefore both have to exist at exactly the same time.
Our paradox thus concludes: neither the egg nor the egg laying creature came first; both were created at the exact same instant, and are inseparable from each other. Precedence does not exist in this context. I hope you find this solution satisfactory (I certainly do). The problem now solved, we should definitely move on to more important puzzles in life.

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3 comments

  1. That was great.
    I was impressed by the mathematical solution using simple abstraction.

    The world of non-constructive proofs has always had its beauty.

    I’m still not feeling convinced that you solved such an aged dilemma – need to think about it.

  2. […] In this interesting wordpress post, shared on Alan’s Google+, the perennial question of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is once more examined. It’s argument is thus, that, working backwards, before the chicken came generic egg-laying creatures, and just before that there merely existed creatures, who didn’t lay eggs. These creatures became egg-laying creatures only when the first egg was laid, and therefore the gg-laying creature and the egg came both at the same time. In its own words: “the first egg-laying creature… would have been indistinguishable from any generic “animal”, if it weren’t for one exclusive trait: it lays eggs. If it didn’t lay any eggs, it would never have gotten the apt name “egg-laying”. Thus, many years ago, when life was simpler than it is today, the world was devoid of eggs, and neither “egg” nor “egg-laying creature” existed. Then, at some moment (the exact time of which I do not know) some creature produced an egg, and immediately two objects that were never before came into being: the egg, and the egg-laying creature. Neither can exist without the other, and therefore both have to exist at exactly the same time. Our paradox thus concludes: neither the egg nor the egg laying creature came first; both were created at the exact same instant, and are inseparable from each other. Precedence does not exist in this context. I hope you find this solution satisfactory (I certainly do). The problem now solved, we should definitely move on to more important puzzles in life.” […]

  3. The question is simultaneously banal and important to the future of mankind. If you believe that the bible is literally true, then the chicken came first (Gen 1:20) but if you believe in the origin of species being due to natural selection then there was a point in time when a not-chicken laid an egg and a chicken hatched therefrom.
    The egg cane first, fools.

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