What was first: the chicken or the egg?
There are different types of questions. Some questions seem easily answerable, but, when really thinking about them
are not. Some questions seem easy and are so. Some questions seem hard and indeed are hard. And the fourth
category are the questions that seem hard but are easy to answer. In this webpage, I'll discuss a question that
fits in at least one of these categories; I'll let you judge which one it is.
A question that is simple to state but that seems hard is the following, almost rethorical one:
What was first: the chicken or the egg.
Folklore is that this question has no answer. If one would answers chicken, then the reply is:
but what did the chicken came from?. An egg, of course, so but when one answers egg to
the question, then the reply is: but who made the egg? Well, a chicken, but then, where did that chicken
So, indeed, it seems this question has no answer. So, is this `chicken-or-egg' question really unanswerable -
a paradoxal question?
Towards an answer
Well, let me tell you: the question does have an answer. The answer however depends on a few other matters:
- How the question is precisely interpreted? In particularly, what does the question mean by egg?
- If we follow the interpretation that we mean by egg a chicken-egg, then we may have to tell how we
define the notion of chicken-egg...
- But mostly, it depends on our viewpoint on the issue of creation versus evolution.
A little logic plus the answers to the questions above is sufficient to resolve the chicken-or-egg matter.
Creation versus evolution
In other webpages, I discuss on the issue how the different types of animals and plants came into being.
I'll distinguish three viewpoints:
For more on these, see e.g., Two or three viewpoints on the origin of
- Atheistic evolution theory.
- Theistic evolution theory. This theory accepts most of the mechanics of evolution, but states that God
was the guiding force in evolution.
What kind of egg?
The different viewpoints make for a different answer to the chicken-or-egg question. However, in each
of the viewpoints, it seems most probably that there were earlier fish eggs before there
Evolution theory assumes that some types of fish were on the earth, many years before there were any
type of birds.
The Bible also describes the creation of the sea animals
one sentence before the creation of the birds, so following the Bible, we can
assume that there were fish eggs before there were chickens.
So, here we have our first answer: the egg was first, if we allow it to be a fish egg.
Of course, after this answer, we want to refine the question:
What was first: the chicken or the chicken-egg?
What is a chicken egg?
As I wrote, it depends on your viewpoint how to answer the `chicken-or-chicken-egg' question.
Evolution theoretists should however also define what they mean with a chicken egg. Actually, this definition seems
already to answer the question when we follow the evolution theory. I see two definitions:
- A chicken egg is an egg from a chicken.
- A chicken egg is an egg from which a chicken (f/m) is born.
In case of the first definition, the chicken clearly must have been first. How the chicken came into being? The
evolution theory gives the answer as follows: some kind of animal that was not a chicken but resembles a chicken quite
a lot has an egg with a mutation, and from this egg, the chicken is born.
In case of the second definition, we assume like in the previous case
there was some animal, not a chicken, that made an egg from which a chicken was born. By
definition, now the egg is a chicken egg, so the egg was first. (This does not take the possibility into consideration
that the chicken was born directly from the mother, e.g., from a mammal, but that is not something that
evolution theorists would deem probable.)
The situation is a little more complicated for followers from theistic evolution. Here, possibly the chicken was formed
from another type of bird by a small evolutionary step, and in this case, the answer is as above, depending on the definition
of the notion of chicken egg. But also, possibly, the chicken was formed by a bigger jump. Could there be a bird, not a chicken,
that made an egg of its own type, from which God let a chicken be born? Could God have transformed a bird, not
a chicken, during its life to a chicken? Or was there a bird, not a chicken, that produced an egg that was like a chicken-egg?
In this case, we are not free to define the notion of chicken-egg ourselves, and we may just have to say that we do not know
exactly how God created the species / chickens.
Genesis 1, verses 20 and 21 include the words:
And God said: ... and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.
So God created ... every winged bird according to its kind..
It seems to me that from this verse one can conclude that the birds were created as animals, not as eggs. So,
to creationists, the answer to the chicken-or-chicken-egg question seems easiest: God created the chicken,
and the chicken made the first chicken-egg.
To some people, the analysis given above may seem silly. Does it teach us something, except that we can somehow
answer the chicken-or-egg question? Well, perhaps we can conclude a few other things.
Some questions become easier when we try to analyse them precisely, but then the answer appears to depend on
viewpoints on other issues. Even then, the answer given by the analysis may be wrong, when the viewpoint is wrong.
In fact, here is another answer to the question: I believe that God created the animals, plants, and humans. He also
created the chickens. But, while I may have some ideas on how he created them (creationist or theistic evolutionist),
I cannot know for sure. I do not know with certainty how creation took place: whether eggs were created first, whether
God used evolution in His creation process, whether we should take the seven days of creation from the Bible literally or
whether these were meant to be a metaphore. But I know for sure that creation was His wish.
(Bible verse from New International Version bible-translation.)
Hans Bodlaender, November 2003
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