Chicken or the egg? Chicken! Egg! No wait, chicken!
Do you know the answer? Do you think it’s an intractable question? It still causes confusion and is considered by some people as an intractable mystery of the Universe. It’s not. The logical analysis of the problem is quite simple, and the answer is even simpler.
The insight is thanks to Darwins theory of evolution. Then it’s simply a case of clarifying what we mean by a ‘chicken’.
Most people (myself included) would say that a ‘chicken’ was laid as an egg, and the chicken is capable of laying eggs (of the same species). By that definition, the egg came first.
Alternatively, you could say that a chicken lays eggs but that the chicken itself didn’t have to come from an egg; by that definition, the chicken came first. My answer equally explains this definition of chicken, but it’s not the one I use in the explanation below.
The question is best answered by rephrasing the original question with the new question: ‘Which came first the mutated chicken or the mutated egg?’. That’s because the key to breaking the catch-22 cycle is: evolution, specifically mutation.
There are 3 evolutionary scenarios (I can think of) describing how the egg came first. Recall we’re using the definition of chicken whereby ‘a chicken is laid as an egg and is capable of laying eggs (of the same species)‘.
An egg-laying species, species-X, laid mutated eggs. These mutated eggs contained a new species-Y. Species-Y are chickens. So the first instance of species-Y was in the egg – hence the egg came first. This satisfactorily explains the chicken-egg conundrum for chickens and chicken eggs. But if we go back up the evolutionary chain then at some point we’re still faced with the question: ‘which came first, the species-A or species-A egg?’. For this we go to scenario 2.
‘Species-A’ didn’t lay eggs, perhaps the young of species-A were born covered in, or emerged from, an amnion, amniotic sac or whatever. Alas, there was a mutation and one/many of species-A young was ‘born’ in an egg, this egg heralded the arrival of species-B. Species-B are chickens (or a predecessor of chickens depending how far back we’ve gone). In this scenario the egg came first, because it is the first instance of species-B. Where species-B was laid in an egg and is capable of laying eggs (of the same species).
It’s possible that an egg mutated (but wasn’t laid) from some other species. It seems improbable that a species would evolve into an egg, and that egg subsequently evolved into an egg-laying chicken. However, it is possible so I mention it for that reason. Even in this scenario the egg came first, because it satisfies our definition.
Scientists have a say:
Read this article: ‘The chicken came first, not the egg‘, scientists prove. It’s an article based on research carried out at Sheffield University and Warwick University in England.
I disagree with the conclusion they’ve drawn from their data, although I’m not disputing the data itself. They’re essentially looking at scenario 2 above, but they’re calling ‘species-A’ a chicken; whereas I call species-B a chicken and species-A a predecessor of chickens.
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