Egg, chicken, chicken, egg.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
I think it is safe to assume that we have all heard of this famous philosophical question, yes? It is meant to be a riddle of sorts, a question where they are no real answers. It is meant to make you think. Sadly, it does have an answer which I will explain at the end.
Another famous question is this: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Think about it very carefully and the way the question is phrased.
This “No one” part of the question renders the experiment pointless. It means humans and not the various other animals and insects that live in the forest. If you have a chicken coop, and all the hens have left it, would you say “Yeah, ma, no one is in the chicken coop”? No? Exactly. So, yes, a tree does make a sound.
This conundrum has lead to two of my favourite jokes which I will share with you:
“If a tree falls in the forest, and hits a mime, does anyone care?”
~ Gary Larson, The Far Side
“If a man speaks in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?”
~ Maura O’Connell
This next one doesn’t really fit in with the others but I include because I love it and this is my blog. Not a question as such. I am talking about Schrödinger’s Cat.
(I hope you are all impressed by the way I have balanced those dots on top of the ‘o’)
One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.
~ Erwin Schrödinger
In his novel American Gods, Neil Gaiman has a character observe, “If they don’t ever open the box to feed it, it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead.”
“In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.”
~ Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
As for the chicken/egg question… depending on which answer you prefer, you can either be accused of eggomania or pulloprimacy.
What? Were you expecting a serious answer? Sheesh! I’ll try…
With evolution, each stage is almost but not quite identical to the previous version. If you lined up a chicken’s entire evolutionary history, you wouldn’t see much of a change. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a chicken and a nearly-a-chicken. Think of it in this way, if you have children, you don’t notice them growing but as you mark their height on the door frame each month, you would see a very clear growth. This is the same thing.
You might think that a nearly-a-chicken is a chicken but evolutionwise, it isn’t quite done yet. So therefore, the egg came first. Although, if we are going to pedantic about the whole matter, dinosaurs came out of eggs and they existed millions of years before chickens and proto-chickens.
Of course, with foxes, chickens always come first.