February 11, 1979
Of all the questions which have been asked over and over down through the ages, some of them like 'Will you marry me?', or 'What's for dinner, Mom?' usually get an answer when they are asked. Some, strangely enough, don't. One such question which has been asked perhaps millions of times since Macrobius published it in A.D. 399, is the famous "Ovumne prius fuerit an gallina?' or, 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?'
After so many centuries of being asked and rarely answered, people have come to think that the question has no answer. Quite the contrary is true. In fact not only does it have an answer, but I know what the answer is. Not so fast. If I just told you the answer, (which is obviously either 'chicken' or 'egg'), this essay would have to end and you wouldn't get the food for thought I promised you in the title. Besides, I have, on occasion, announced to people that I know the answer and then just blurted it out. Almost invariably on these occasions I get an incredulous look followed by some kind of patronizing remark. People just don't believe the truth when you tell them straight out.
No, instead of just telling you the answer, I am going to give you sufficient clues so that you can figure it out for yourself. I can almost hear those of you who like mathematical puzzles saying "Oh goody, I like math puzzles!". So just for you, I will give you some math type clues, but my honest advice is to not waste your time working from these clues:
The number of letters in the answer is a prime number and is a root of the equation
There, now we can get on to a more serious clue. This clue might seem startling, but I think you will have to agree that if the clue is true, then the answer to the chicken and egg question is obvious. Here's the clue:
The question, 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?' is equivalent to the question, 'Which accounts for the origin of species, creation or evolution?'
Waaaaaait just a minute! This was supposed to be thought provoking, but this is pretty heavy stuff. If you like, you may stop reading right here and I will understand. The fact is, I think that people have known of this equivalency all along. In light of the long history we have had of persecution for one's thoughts, it becomes easier to see why, in spite of the question being so frequently asked, it is so seldom answered. When you think about it, it would be a clever trap by an inquisitor to pop such a seemingly innocuous question on an unsuspecting victim.
But enough of that. For those of you who have dared to continue this far, I think that in twentieth century America it is safe enough to come to grips intellectually with the likes of such heady questions as that of the chicken and the egg.
At this point, I don't expect all of you to agree with the truth of the proposition I gave as a clue. In the first place there are those who would argue that even though both questions appear to be multiple choice questions with two possible answers, they are not equivalent types of questions.
The flaw is, the argument continues, that the chicken and egg answers cover all possibilities (one or the other had to have come first) while the creation and evolution answers represent only a partial list of possible answers. For the latter question, the answer 'None of the above' is also a possibility.
To those of you who think that this seeming difference destroys the equivalence, let me point out a feature of the Theory of Relativity. There is no such thing as simultaneity, therefore the appearance of one event preceding another is arbitrary and depends on your point of view (frame of reference). This means that "None of the above" is also a possible answer to the chicken and egg question.
Now let me explain how the two questions in the clue are related, indeed, how they are equivalent. Let's start with the question about the origin of species, and take it case by case. First let's suppose that 'creation' is the true answer. In this case we can consult the authority, the Old Testament, for help. It doesn't take long to find out that "God created...every winged fowl after his kind." (Gen. 1:22), after which "God blessed them saying, Be fruitful...and let fowl multiply in the earth." (Gen. 1:22). Nothing here about eggs and incubators (which would be required, of course, since there would be no chickens to sit on the eggs had the latter been created first.) So in case 1, it is clear that if species of animals were created, then chickens came before eggs.
Now let's look at case 2. If evolution is responsible for the origin of species, then the species Gallus gallus, which is the ancestor of your garden variety chicken, evolved from some 'lower form of life' which was not a chicken. Current thinking by evolutionists holds that the line of birds came up through reptiles or some such animal. Whatever the actual progression from non-chicken to chicken was, it is fairly certain that all the animals in the progression were hatched from eggs. So no matter which particular animal you single out and say that this is the first one in the progression that we will call 'chicken', it will have come from an egg. Thus it is clear from case 2 that if species of animals were evolved, then eggs came before chickens.
Now that you believe the clue to be true, you should have no trouble figuring out the answer...should you?Please send me an email with your comments.
©1999, 2003 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.