Which Came First – The Chicken Or the Egg?

Are you familiar with the chicken and egg paradox?  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

If you said the egg came first, how can that be because you need a chicken to lay the egg.  If the chicken came first, how can that be because it needs to hatch from an egg, which obviously would need to come from a chicken, which then …. yea it keeps cycling back and forth.

It is a very cool paradox, because thinking about it will make your head hurt.

Per Wikipedia, the history of this dilemma goes as this:

History of the dilemma

Ancient references to the dilemma are found in the writings of classical philosophers. Their writings indicate that the proposed problem was perplexing to themselves and was commonly discussed by others of their time as well.

Aristotle (384322 BC) was puzzled by the idea that there could be a first bird or egg and concluded that both the bird and egg must have always existed:

If there has been a first man he must have been born without father or mother – which is repugnant to nature. For there could not have been a first egg to give a beginning to birds, or there should have been a first bird which gave a beginning to eggs; for a bird comes from an egg.

The same he held good for all species, believing, with Plato, that everything before it appeared on earth had first its being in spirit.”[2]

Plutarch (46126 AD) referred to a hen rather than simply a bird. His is Moralia in the books titled “Table Talk” discussed a series of arguments based on questions posed in a symposium. Under the section entitled, “Whether the hen or the egg came first,” the discussion is introduced in such a way suggesting that the origin of the dilemma was even older:

…the problem about the egg and the hen, which of them came first, was dragged into our talk, a difficult problem which gives investigators much trouble. And Sulla my comrade said that with a small problem, as with a tool, we were rocking loose a great and heavy one, that of the creation of the world…”[3]

Macrobius (395423 AD), a Roman philosopher, found the problem to be interesting:

You jest about what you suppose to be a triviality, in asking whether the hen came first from an egg or the egg from a hen, but the point should be regarded as one of importance, one worthy of discussion, and careful discussion at that.”[4]

Stephen Hawking and Christopher Langan argue that the egg came before the chicken, though the real importance of the question has faded since Darwin’s “On The Origin Of Species” and the accompanying Theory of Evolution, under which the egg must have come first.[5][6]

Now we today have real life Chicken vs Egg references.  See this example below:

  • Fear of a recession causes people to spend less, which reduces demand, causing a recession.
  • Fear of violence/war can make people more defensive/violent, the resulting tension/violence will cause more fear (see security dilemma).
  • More jobs cause more consumption, which requires more production, and thus more jobs.
  • IPv6 content is not widely provided because of lack of support, but ISPs do not provide IPv6 support because of lack of content.
  • An increase in production to feed a growing population leads only to a further increase in population.
  • An actor cannot join the actor’s union unless he has played a role in a union film, but a non-union actor cannot get a role in a union film because he isn’t in the union.

Pretty interesting, right?  Welcome to Egg.


Posted on April 2, 2009, in Entertainment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. it has to be the egg. evodevo man.

  2. I am pretty sure that the egg came first , Ive heard the chickens are hybrid specie so the “chicken” who layed the egg wasnt chicken, but interesting paradox anyway

  3. Yea, it’s the egg, it’s straight up evolution. You need the first egg to get the chicken, so the egg was there first, but from an ancestral form. It’s not as straightforward as that, the principle being that the ancestor was pretty similar, as there are very few mutations/selections as you go down. I can go in more detail if anyone wants…

  4. Dinosaurs laid eggs, and chicken came much later.

    Eggs before chicken.

    Who said it’d have to be chicken egg?

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