Chicken or Egg? You decide!

In this week’s Friday bonus blog, as promised, I answer a question that has plagued humanity for thousands of years.  Our inquisitive reader asks:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  I ask because I have heard compelling and surprisingly scientific arguments for both.

Allow me to regale you with my ancient wisdom.  I’m going to tackle this question from a completely Western World View, because I’m a product of the West, and obviously our answers are always the right ones otherwise we wouldn’t be able to conquer the world so effectively.  Perhaps one of the first people to tackle this question was the Greek philosopher, Aristotle.  Aristotle writes:

“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.”


This is a keen observation coming from such an ignorant pagan.  It is a question of causality: everything that exists must have had an initial cause, or else it has always existed.  The vast majority of the ancient Greeks almost certainly brushed the question aside, assuming that the Gods created everything, as they were bigger pagans than Aristotle and an insult to the Western world that they spawned.  But for Aristotle and his teacher Plato, the question was huge.  Both of them settled it by claiming that the world was eternal, and everything had always been.  Their exact approach, and the details, differed, but the end result was the same: chickens have laid eggs forever, and will continue to do so forever.  There was no beginning.

Then along comes those feisty Christian folk.  Christianity tackles the problem by saying that everything’s beginning was with God, thus eliminating the dilemma in a slightly different way.  Things started when God said so, because God said so.  Presumably God would have created the chicken first, because a bunch of eggs laying about without parents is just poor judgment, and God is pretty keen on the whole judgment thing, so I’m assuming his is impeccable.

Next, the biggest heathen ever born, a really hairy fellow that loved birds a little too much, comes along and starts raving about monkey-men.  Charles Darwin pissed off a lot of people, and put a new spin on the chicken or egg causality dilemma.  Darwin claimed that all species evolved from other species, slowly, over time.  Exactly when a species becomes something new is hard to say, but in the case of a chicken; did some fat jungle fowl lay an egg that produced a chicken, or was the layer already a chicken?

When we present the question in this light, the answer seems obvious: the mutated genetic freak of a chicken had to have hatched from an egg, from a non-chicken parent.  If its parent had already been a chicken, that parent came from an egg as well, and at some point, its parent couldn’t have been a chicken, therefore: the egg.  The first chicken was probably viewed as a hideous monstrosity that its mom kicked out of the nest as soon as it wasn’t fluffy, and then it became a total badass, and kicked all sorts of baby jungle-fowl ass, and ate all sorts of hallucinogenic plants just to piss off its parents.  Then at some point it resigned itself to the fact that it was just a fat waste of space that could barely even fly and probably went through an annoying emo phase and dressed up as a vampire.

To summarize, your answers are either: the world is eternal, God does what he wants, or the egg.  You decide.  And while you’re deciding, why don’t you contemplate the more important question.

Omnisciently Yours,
The Dungeon Master

Next Tuesday we discuss what to do when a DM has too many damn players.

If you wish to submit a question to the Dungeon Master, please e-mail them to, or you can Tweet me a question by hash-tagging me (#askthedm) in your Tweet. And make sure to review the disclaimer.

You can also see me in action in One Die Short.


This entry was posted in Philosophy, Science and Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Chicken or Egg? You decide!

  1. Obviously, a chicken would not have sprung fully formed from a non-chicken egg. Instead, there would have been a gradual transition where we could not draw a line between chicken and non-chicken—but where we could say that specimen A was a chicken and its ancestor B from a hundred thousand years earlier was not.

    • Ask the DM says:

      that’s a reasonable response, but at some point the chicken could no longer reproduce with other jungle birdies and that’s the best evidence of a new species. granted, plenty of different species can still interbreed with each other but most of them produce sterile offspring. so when that first chicken could no longer reproduce with it’s jungle fowl brethren and produce offspring that could still reproduce, it officially became a chicken. and that seems like a line to me. but of course it’s still all guestimation, as i’m not aware of anyone witnessing the birth of a brand new species more complex than microorganisms.

      • No such luck: Apart from matters of definition, with plenty of room for debate, there are at least two problems:

        1. It is unlikely that any individual chicken-candidate would be sufficiently separated from all the other individuals. Rather, it would likely be a group that diverged from the rest of the population, which makes it near impossible to pinpoint that one chicken. (And if one individual found no-one to bread with, well, it would certainly not be the ancestor of today’s chickens…) An addtional complication is that there will likely be no clear line to draw, because any group could contain at least one member compatible with non-members.

        2. It is possible for a population that would be clearly non-chicken to diverge at a long-ago time and then develop into today’s chickens without a second divergence.

        • Ask the DM says:

          These are of course all very true, and I think the main problem here is that I’m using a “single bird” idea to represent group dynamics to simplify things. The main point I’m trying to make is that one bird (or more) at some point developed useful mutations that would lead to the modern chicken. That bird, to my mind, was the first “chicken” because without its genes chickens wouldn’t exist as we know them. They had to diverge, and of course we’re talking about drawing lines, and with evolution it’s hard to know where or when to draw lines because everything is such a slow, continuous process that never really ends, but in discussing the implications of the theory, I still think it’s important to create those lines, arbitrary though they might be.

  2. Grace says:

    Excellent post! Of course, strictly speaking, we are all mutants.

  3. Will says:

    Chicken or egg, is an internal view. Why he crossed the road girls could only be answered if you knew him personally and asked him to make a beer run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s