Friday 26 February 2010

The Chicken and the Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There seem to be and endless supply of people bringing this question up in different contexts, and each time it is expected to be a question without an answer. This could be true, but it might not as you will see. The question does not have a one ultimate answer, as it depends heavily on the viewpoint one takes when answering.

If we look at it from a purely historical point of view, eggs have been around at least since the dinosaurs were around more than 65 million years ago. Back then no chickens existed as far as we know, so from this viewpoint one can easily answer that the egg came way before the chicken.

Another viewpoint would be from a pure linguistical point. Did the word “egg” exist before the word “chicken”, and if it did, did it mean the same thing as today? This is a very hard question to answer since a language evolves, and tracing the history of a word might gradually change it until it is another word. One would then have to define exactly how much a word is allowed to change before we decide that it is a different word. Of course, if the word existed with another meaning before, we could probably find a point where the meaning changed to what it is today. I do not have a good answer from this line of thought, but if anyone has researched the origin of the words “egg” and “chicken” in detail, please share your findings.

Dropping the language details, lets move backwards in time. If we start with a chicken today it will have come from an egg, which will have come from a chicken and so on. We will at some point reach an ancestor which we would not call a chicken, but lets not dwell on that. This chicken ancestor came from an egg as well, which was probably produced by another chicken ancestor. Somewhere along the line we would reach a living organism that created a copy of itself without an egg (very far back), which at some point evolved into creating protection for its offspring during its first phase. This would then mean that that organism predated the egg as such, and thus the question would be that the chicken came before the egg, although it would an extremely different chicken from the one we have today.

Of course the above reasoning relies heavily on evolution in its explanation. If one were to believe in creationism, then according to Pastafarianism either the chicken or the egg was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This view would actually leave the question as cryptical as the question probably was is intended to be.

So what have we learned here? This could be a very simple question or a very hard one. Whatever your answer to the question you will probably be right from your own perspective, and there are probably more views than I have listed here. This is very apparent when it comes to this question, but the same can be said on almost any question. The viewpoint you take when answering the question will affect the way you interpret it and thus the answer to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment