what came first the chicken or the egg

Answers to what came first the chicken or the egg

CNN's View
It's a question that has baffled scientists, academics and pub bores through the ages: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now a team made up of a geneticist, philosopher and chicken farmer claim to have found an answer. It was the egg.

Put simply, the reason is down to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal's life.

Therefore the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.

Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham, told the UK Press Association the pecking order was clear.

The living organism inside the eggshell would have had the same DNA as the chicken it would develop into, he said.

"Therefore, the first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg," he added. "So, I would conclude that the egg came first."

The same conclusion was reached by his fellow "eggsperts" Professor David Papineau, of King's College London, and poultry farmer Charles Bourns.

Mr Papineau, an expert in the philosophy of science, agreed that the first chicken came from an egg and that proves there were chicken eggs before chickens.

He told PA people were mistaken if they argued that the mutant egg belonged to the "non-chicken" bird parents.

"I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it," he said.

"If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg."

Bourns, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said he was also firmly in the pro-egg camp.

He said: "Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived. Of course, they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today, but they were eggs."

The debate, which may come as a relief to those with argumentative relatives, was organized by Disney to promote the release of the film "Chicken Little" on DVD.

The chicken or the egg causality dilemma is commonly stated as "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Chickens hatch from eggs, but eggs are laid by chickens, making it difficult to say which originally gave rise to the other. To ancient philosophers, the question about the first chicken or egg also evoked the questions of how life and the universe in general began.

Cultural references to the chicken and egg intend to point out the futility of identifying the first case of a circular cause and consequence.

The dilemma can be interpreted differently using different definitions of a chicken or an egg. In biology, the term egg is biologically ambiguous and the theory of Punctuated equilibrium, for example, does not support a clear division between a chicken and the closest ancestors of that chicken. Both of those factors tend to contribute to the circular nature of the question (causing problems similar to either a hasty generalization or a fallacy of definition). Below are a few different definitions that could be assumed and their logical outcomes.

If the egg is not necessarily of any specific type: Then it could be said that the egg came first, because other animals had been laying eggs long before chickens existed, such as the dinosaurs. In biology, egg is used as a general term in this way.

If only an egg that will hatch into a chicken can be considered a chicken egg: Then a re-consideration of the original question suggests: Some animal other than a chicken laid the first chicken egg which contained the first chicken. In this case the chicken egg came before the chicken. In reality, many scientific theories suggest that this would not have been a simple event. For example, the theory of Punctuated equilibrium theorizes that the actual speciation of an organism from its ancestral species is usually the result of many mutations combined with new geographical surroundings, called Cladogenesis.

If only an egg laid by a chicken can be considered a chicken egg: Then a re-consideration of the original question suggests: The first chicken (which hatched from a non-chicken egg) laid the first chicken egg. In this case the chicken came before the chicken egg. Again, this would not necessarily be a straightforward event.

If only an egg that is laid by a chicken and that will hatch into a chicken can be considered a chicken egg: Then the first chicken came from a different type of egg (not a chicken egg) and laid the first chicken egg. In this case eggs (in general) came first, the chicken came after, and the chicken egg came last.

Another View
In nature, living things evolve through changes in their DNA. In an animal like a chicken, DNA from a male sperm cell and a female ovum meet and combine to form a zygote -- the first cell of a new baby chicken. This first cell divides innumerable times to form all of the cells of the complete animal. In any animal, every cell contains exactly the same DNA, and that DNA comes from the zygote.

Chickens evolved from non-chickens through small changes caused by the mixing of male and female DNA or by mutations to the DNA that produced the zygote. These changes and mutations only have an effect at the point where a new zygote is created. That is, two non-chickens mated and the DNA in their new zygote contained the mutation(s) that produced the first true chicken. That one zygote cell divided to produce the first true chicken.

Prior to that first true chicken zygote, there were only non-chickens. The zygote cell is the only place where DNA mutations could produce a new animal, and the zygote cell is housed in the chicken's egg. So, the egg must have come first.

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