Which came first, chicken or egg?

Every generation has argued this question. It is an ancient dilemma going back to the time of Aristotle (350 BC) and Plutarch (100 AD). Aristotle took the easy way out, concluding that both the chicken and the egg must have always existed. Aristotle, like Plato, believed that everything on Earth first had its being in spirit.

In science and engineering, the situation is known as circular reference, in which  a parameter must be known to calculate the parameter itself. In other words, one must know something to calculate that same something. This concept shows up in the Colebrook Equation that is used to calculate fluid flow in a pipe. It also comes into play in the Van der Waals Equation used to determine forces between particles in fluids.

The chicken and egg idea calls to mind the question of how life and the universe began. It often leads to the pointlessness of identifying the first cause. The question can be stated as “Which came first, X that can’t come without Y, or Y that can’t come without X?”

Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist, often called the successor to Albert Einstein, has argued that the egg came before the chicken. A literal interpretation of the Bible would put the chicken before the egg. To quote Genesis; “And God blessed them, saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the water in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth”.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a belief in the wheel of time, that there is no first in eternity.  Time is cyclical. There is no creation, so neither the egg nor the chicken came first.

Here is another argument. Chickens came about from non-chickens through small changes, or mutations, in the DNA. Prior to the first true chicken, there were non-chickens. The DNA changes came about in cells housed in the egg. So the egg came first.

In July 2010, British scientists, using a supercomputer (HECToR), claimed to have come up with the final and definitive answer. They identified the protein, ovocledidin-17, that is required to speed up the production of eggshell within the chicken. In 24 hours, an egg is ready to be laid. An egg cannot be produced without the chicken. So that settles it, once and for all. The chicken came first.

That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it !




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