The egg came first

| 59 Comments

I have been saying it for years: The transition from dinosaur (figuratively speaking) to chicken was gradual, but at some time we stopped calling it a dinosaur and started calling it a chicken. Or would have if we had been there. The chicken therefore emerged from an egg laid by a dinosaur. Hence, the egg came first. See Robert Krulwich’s article on NPR and the splendid video he links to if you do not believe me.

Acknowledgement. Thanks to Dave Carlson, who asks, “Which came first, the panda or the panda’s thumb?” for the link.

59 Comments

“Which came first, the panda or the panda’s thumb?”

I dunno; I can’t quite put my finger on an answer to that one.

Henry J said:

“Which came first, the panda or the panda’s thumb?”

I dunno; I can’t quite put my finger on an answer to that one.

A question for the digital age!

It depends on our velocity relative to the chicken and the egg.

Mike Elzinga said:

It depends on our velocity relative to the chicken and the egg.

Days were shorter back then, so the years went by faster, so a light year wasn’t the same then as it is now. So light has sped up since those times. Which proves the universe is much younger than evolutionism claims.

I still like Eugene Volokh’s take:

http://www.volokh.com/posts/1155100536.shtml

But doesn’t that assume the truth of the theory evolution, some might ask? If that bothers you, I propose a religious solution: In my experience, most creationists are also pro-life – in which case, the egg is a chicken.

I will issue the obligatory cladist caveat: chicken are dinosaurs, so there is no point at which we would stop calling it a dinosaur, thought there is a point (or something a bit like a point) at which we would start calling it a chicken, just as there is a point at which we would start calling it a coelurosaur, a maniraptoran, a bird, a galliform, and so on.

There are two remaining problems. First, evolution happens to populations, not individuals. Unless you think that the difference between chickenhood and non-chickenhood is a single mutation, there can no more be a first chicken than there can be a first English speaker. If it is a single mutation, then I suppose the first chicken is either a sperm or an egg. Or maybe it’s some germline precursor of a sperm or egg.

Second, what’s the definition of a chicken egg? Is it an egg laid by a chicken or an egg that hatches into a chicken? You assume the latter, but why?

Of course there was a first English speaker. It was Shakespeare.

Some might argue persuasively that Geoffrey Chaucer might be a better candidate than Shakespeare, Matt Young, or go back further by noting those who drafted the Magna Carta. Otherwise, I concur with John Harshman’s observations regarding the phylogenetic relationship of chickens with other dinosaurs. And allow me to be the first to wish everyone a most happy Darwin Day!

John said, on first English speaker:

or go back further by noting those who drafted the Magna Carta.

Uh… the Magna Carta is, like its title, in Latin.

Matt Young said:

Of course there was a first English speaker. It was Shakespeare.

Er, no, the first English speaker was Moses.

I can remember when, as a child, my grandmother asked me which came first, the chicken or the egg. This didn’t seem at all to be a puzzle, and I gave the obvious reply that the chicken evolved from an egg-laying non-chicken. I remember this because I was puzzled by my grandmother’s negative reaction.

Dave Luckett said:

John said, on first English speaker:

or go back further by noting those who drafted the Magna Carta.

Uh… the Magna Carta is, like its title, in Latin.

But what did the drafters speak? English or Norman French? That’s a real question; when did the Norman nobility make the switch? (Which I presume was gradual and situation-dependent, so hard to answer exactly. Rather like the question of the first English speaker.)

Dave Luckett said:

John said, on first English speaker:

or go back further by noting those who drafted the Magna Carta.

Uh… the Magna Carta is, like its title, in Latin.

No disagree ment with you there, Dave,but I did not “those who drafted”, not that the Magna Carta itself was written in English.

John Harshman said:

Dave Luckett said:

John said, on first English speaker:

or go back further by noting those who drafted the Magna Carta.

Uh… the Magna Carta is, like its title, in Latin.

But what did the drafters speak? English or Norman French? That’s a real question; when did the Norman nobility make the switch? (Which I presume was gradual and situation-dependent, so hard to answer exactly. Rather like the question of the first English speaker.)

An excellent point, John, but by the time of the Plantagenet Kings Richard the Lionheart and his brother John (to whom the Magna Carta was addressed), I think it is reasonably safe to assume that most of the nobility conversed in English primarily(though an English heavily influenced by Norman French), not in Norman French.

The people who actually draughted the Magna Carta were clerics. They spoke Latin, mostly, and they came from everywhere. Those who had come from humbler English backgrounds would naturally speak English, but it would have been uncommon to hear it in cloister, where it was regarded as a language unsuited to either learning or piety.

King John himself was only addressed in French (or Latin), and that applied to his whole court. To what extent his barons spoke English is obscure; probably some, but only to peasants, not among themselves. All legal bills and documents, pleadings and case records, were in French, and so was business correspondence, while most administration was in Latin, and this was true up until the time of Edward I. The status of French only diminished with the Hundred Years’ War and the loss of the French lands. To what extent English was actually spoken among the upper classes - and Magna Carta was definitely concerned with them, almost exclusively - is not certain, but probably it was not spoken much, in 1215.

John Harshman said:

I will issue the obligatory cladist caveat: chicken are dinosaurs, so there is no point at which we would stop calling it a dinosaur, thought there is a point (or something a bit like a point) at which we would start calling it a chicken, just as there is a point at which we would start calling it a coelurosaur, a maniraptoran, a bird, a galliform, and so on.

There are two remaining problems. First, evolution happens to populations, not individuals. Unless you think that the difference between chickenhood and non-chickenhood is a single mutation, there can no more be a first chicken than there can be a first English speaker. If it is a single mutation, then I suppose the first chicken is either a sperm or an egg. Or maybe it’s some germline precursor of a sperm or egg.

Second, what’s the definition of a chicken egg? Is it an egg laid by a chicken or an egg that hatches into a chicken? You assume the latter, but why?

But didn’t all the chickens/dinosaurs die about 65 million years ago in the great asteroid impact? This would would have left no dinosaurs/chickens to lay the eggs, unless of course they re-evolved into egg layers within a few million years or so to lay the proverbial golden egg.

jtbraswell said:

John Harshman said:

I will issue the obligatory cladist caveat: chicken are dinosaurs, so there is no point at which we would stop calling it a dinosaur, thought there is a point (or something a bit like a point) at which we would start calling it a chicken, just as there is a point at which we would start calling it a coelurosaur, a maniraptoran, a bird, a galliform, and so on.

There are two remaining problems. First, evolution happens to populations, not individuals. Unless you think that the difference between chickenhood and non-chickenhood is a single mutation, there can no more be a first chicken than there can be a first English speaker. If it is a single mutation, then I suppose the first chicken is either a sperm or an egg. Or maybe it’s some germline precursor of a sperm or egg.

Second, what’s the definition of a chicken egg? Is it an egg laid by a chicken or an egg that hatches into a chicken? You assume the latter, but why?

But didn’t all the chickens/dinosaurs die about 65 million years ago in the great asteroid impact? This would would have left no dinosaurs/chickens to lay the eggs, unless of course they re-evolved into egg layers within a few million years or so to lay the proverbial golden egg.

You must understand that all dinosaurs have always laid eggs and continue to do so to this day. What died in the impact were all dinosaurs that were not birds, and many of the ones that were. We think that a few dozen dinosaur species, all birds, survived the impact, and that among them was a proto-chicken, i.e. the common ancestor of the order Galliformes. Chickens themselves – Gallus gallus are much more recent, a few million years at most. Or if we mean domesticated chickens, a few thousand.

Don’t know what’s so hard here. There were eggs MILLIONS of years before there were chickens.

JoeBuddha said:

Don’t know what’s so hard here. There were eggs MILLIONS of years before there were chickens.

Yes, but did any of them cross the road?

The question that I want to ask kids who are fascinated by dinosaurs is why extinct animals have so strange names.

RM said:

The question that I want to ask kids who are fascinated by dinosaurs is why extinct animals have so strange names.

Not just extinct ones; also ones that are too small to see, or too rare or too far from people to get seen much.

The answer is obvious when you use proper terms: Which came first - Gallus gallus or Amniota?

Most life above single cell life comes from eggs.

As for chickens, they are amazing creatures. I used to raise and keep them as pets. I saw the dinosaurs in them quite easily.

They are very primal creatures, domesticated or not. The rooster specifically is quite focused on procreation above and beyond their desire for food. I have yet to see a fat rooster. They burn through their calories with great fervor. I used to hand feed them all.

There are a few interesting facts about chickens I discovered through the years we spent caring for them. One fact is, their beaks are shaped just so that when they peck at their eggs they simply glance and slide off of them. However, if the egg has been compromised in any way, they eat the egg, in fact they will fight over them.

Another interesting fact is if there is no rooster, a hen will begin to act like a rooster in every way. In my experience broody hens are rare. The hens will all lay in a pre-determined spot the dominant hen has chosen and just leave them.

And, yes, there really is a “pecking order” starting with the rooster or the rooster acting hen on down. This is easily seen when it is time for them to roost for the night in the coop.

Often, I would find the chickens (of all types of breeds) roosting in a tree nearest to the coop.

They are fascinating creatures well worth the time and effort in observation and studying.

John said:

Some might argue persuasively that Geoffrey Chaucer might be a better candidate than Shakespeare…

Some might argue what Shakespeare spoke wasn’t English.

Some might argue what Shakespeare spoke wasn’t English.

Interesting – I would have said Chaucer:Shakespeare = dinosaur:chicken.

For me John Harshman’s question settles the question as the chicken coming first. Obviously dinosaur eggs came before chickens and chicken eggs, but that isn’t the question. The question is which came first the chicken or the (implied) chicken egg. If a scientist took a duck egg and removed all duck DNA and replaced it with chicken DNA and a chicken subsequently emerged, I would say that science made a chicken hatch from a duck egg. So for me if there is a population of not-quite chickens laying eggs, I would not characterize those eggs as meeting the question. Not until there was actually a chicken to lay an egg that I would call a chicken egg. Your mileage may vary

Ron Bear, You come from an egg. Human females have millions of eggs, but only release one at a time each month. Chickens release one every 18-22 hours, depending upon breed. It appears to be a painful process for chicken.

On the topic of eggs, I would like to add I have an adult RES (Red Eared Slider) turtle. Each egg laying season she lays 20+ unfertilized eggs. There is no male turtle near her though there is a small turtle figure in her tank she has always been fond of. She “flirts” with the piece as if she is the male, doing the finger fluttering in front the “head” while jutting her head in and out of her shell in between her front feet.

I find it fascinating these animals will compensate for the lack of a male mate.

Both Robert Kulrich’s article and Eugene Volokh’s reply on this question are interesting. However, they emphasize the problem with evolutionary thinking. That is, it is all based on an assumption; one that has not been proven in the 150 years since Darwin first wrote his book. Neo-Darwinism has not been able to prove that it explains the origin of life on earth nor has it been able to explain the existence of specifically complex information in DNA or irreducible complexity in certain biological systems.

Volokh illustrates the problem and betrays his matter-of-fact style when he writes, “That’s the way species change operates – the mixing of genes from two individuals, likely coupled with mutation and other genetic changes, produces an individual with a new genetic pattern that can be said to belong to a new species.” Assuming the truth of something that has not been proven is not good enough. Especially when its explanatory power, when applied to the chicken and egg question, results in “likely”s and maybes.

So instead of assuming that Neo-Darwinism is true and having faith that it will one day be proven, alternative solutions need to be explored. As it happens, intelligence is the only known cause of specified complexity and irreducibly complex systems. So maybe the origin of life, and subsequent eggs and chickens, can be explained by an intelligent cause.

Prometheist said:

As it happens, intelligence is the only known cause of specified complexity and irreducibly complex systems. So maybe the origin of life, and subsequent eggs and chickens, can be explained by an intelligent cause.

As it happens, intelligence is never known to arise from nothing, with no parents. So, uh, who was the parent of your proposed “intelligence”? (And grandparent, all the way down?)

Prometheist said:

Both Robert Kulrich’s article and Eugene Volokh’s reply on this question are interesting. However, they emphasize the problem with evolutionary thinking. That is, it is all based on an assumption; one that has not been proven in the 150 years since Darwin first wrote his book. Neo-Darwinism has not been able to prove that it explains the origin of life on earth nor has it been able to explain the existence of specifically complex information in DNA or irreducible complexity in certain biological systems.

Volokh illustrates the problem and betrays his matter-of-fact style when he writes, “That’s the way species change operates – the mixing of genes from two individuals, likely coupled with mutation and other genetic changes, produces an individual with a new genetic pattern that can be said to belong to a new species.” Assuming the truth of something that has not been proven is not good enough. Especially when its explanatory power, when applied to the chicken and egg question, results in “likely”s and maybes.

So instead of assuming that Neo-Darwinism is true and having faith that it will one day be proven, alternative solutions need to be explored. As it happens, intelligence is the only known cause of specified complexity and irreducibly complex systems. So maybe the origin of life, and subsequent eggs and chickens, can be explained by an intelligent cause.

Sir, you are sadly misinformed. Speciation has been observed in the laboratory and in nature. Extensive genetic studies have demonstrated conclusively that speciation has occurred. This is not an assumption, it is an observed fact. Several different genetic mechanism of speciation are well documented. SO instead of ignoring all of this evidence and just assuming that speciation does not occur, you should at least propose an alternative explanation to account for the diversity of life. You know, t=one that is scientific and testable. One that better explains all of the evidence. AS it so happens, hand waving arguments and misrepresentations of nebulous concepts such as “specified complexity” are worse than useless. So maybe there are naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and subsequent diversification that don;t involve any intelligence whatsoever.

Please do not feed the Prometheist troll; I think it is a nuisance we have seen before.

Matt Young said:

Please do not feed the Prometheist troll; I think it is a nuisance we have seen before.

You’re likely right – or at least the noises it makes are identical to many previous trolls. I suspect that human cloning has been going on for years. Witness our trolls who all run the same audiotape.

Of course, as I understand it, the time between “that’s definitely not a chicken” and “that is a chicken” may have been tens of thousands (or possibly even several million) of years. Between those points, the species simply got more chicken-like over time, and there’s no reason to think that there was any point at which the individuals were much different than their recent ancestors.

Henry

Henry J said:

Of course, as I understand it, the time between “that’s definitely not a chicken” and “that is a chicken” may have been tens of thousands (or possibly even several million) of years. Between those points, the species simply got more chicken-like over time, and there’s no reason to think that there was any point at which the individuals were much different than their recent ancestors.

Henry

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Why am I reminded of creationists drawing lines between “completely ape” skulls and “completely human” ones (and not in the same place as other creationists)?

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Henry J said:

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Hmmm. Where does a chicken nugget fall on the line between not-chicken and chicken?

Mike Elzinga said:

Henry J said:

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Hmmm. Where does a chicken nugget fall on the line between not-chicken and chicken?

It’s post-chicken.

Just Bob said:

Why am I reminded of creationists drawing lines between “completely ape” skulls and “completely human” ones (and not in the same place as other creationists)?

I have a copy of From Lucy To Language by Johanson and Edgar, 1996 Simon and Schuster. It contains full-size color reproductions of every hominid skull in existence at that time, I believe.

It is exquisite. The ‘progression’, if I may use that word, is gradual and unmistakable. (I do not imply “progress” but rather a sequence of temporal succession.)

I defy any Creationist to draw a line between ‘ape’ and ‘man’ amongst the photographs in this book. Another Creationist will draw a different line simply because there is no good way to differentiate ‘ape’ from ‘man’.

You have to see the plates to believe it. They are astounding.

Just Bob said:

Mike Elzinga said:

Henry J said:

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Hmmm. Where does a chicken nugget fall on the line between not-chicken and chicken?

It’s post-chicken.

This chicken is no more… etc…

That’s, of course, if one believes that Shakespeare was the author of the plays and the sonnets. There are a few scholars who dispute that, agitating for Christopher Marlowe, Sir Francis Bacon, or Edward DeVere, the Earl of Oxford.

Matt Young said:

Of course there was a first English speaker. It was Shakespeare.

prongs said:

You have to see the plates to believe it. They are astounding.

I have. They are.

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

Mike Elzinga said:

Henry J said:

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Hmmm. Where does a chicken nugget fall on the line between not-chicken and chicken?

Given that the UK newspapers are currently fixated on the discovery that a “budget” beef lasagne ready meal’s latest common ancestor with a cow must have been when the Artiodactyla diverged from the Perissodactyla, the assumption that a chicken nugget exists in the same coordinate system as a chicken is questionable.

fnxtr said:

Just Bob said:

Mike Elzinga said:

Henry J said:

When you get half way from not-chicken to chicken, round up.

Or call Col. Sanders?

Hmmm. Where does a chicken nugget fall on the line between not-chicken and chicken?

It’s post-chicken.

This chicken is no more… etc…

Nah, it’s just on the other side of the road.

Just Bob said:

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

They’re not equatorial enough.

Kevin B said:

Just Bob said:

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

They’re not equatorial enough.

Too much latitude?

What came first, the birth defects or birth?

Prometheist said:

Both Robert Kulrich’s article and Eugene Volokh’s reply on this question are interesting. However, they emphasize the problem with evolutionary thinking. That is, it is all based on an assumption; one that has not been proven in the 150 years since Darwin first wrote his book. Neo-Darwinism has not been able to prove that it explains the origin of life on earth nor has it been able to explain the existence of specifically complex information in DNA or irreducible complexity in certain biological systems.

Volokh illustrates the problem and betrays his matter-of-fact style when he writes, “That’s the way species change operates – the mixing of genes from two individuals, likely coupled with mutation and other genetic changes, produces an individual with a new genetic pattern that can be said to belong to a new species.” Assuming the truth of something that has not been proven is not good enough. Especially when its explanatory power, when applied to the chicken and egg question, results in “likely”s and maybes.

So instead of assuming that Neo-Darwinism is true and having faith that it will one day be proven, alternative solutions need to be explored. As it happens, intelligence is the only known cause of specified complexity and irreducibly complex systems. So maybe the origin of life, and subsequent eggs and chickens, can be explained by an intelligent cause.

Proof only exists in mathematics and logic. Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life. How does your ‘intelligent designer’ allow birth defects. Atavisms are evidence of evolution, why ignore atavisms? Evolution has nothing to do with faith.

Sorry, but replies to Prometheist will be sent to the bathroom wall, regardless of merit.

Henry J said:

Kevin B said:

Just Bob said:

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

They’re not equatorial enough.

Too much latitude?

Not enough Douglas Adams.….

Kevin B said:

Henry J said:

Kevin B said:

Just Bob said:

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

They’re not equatorial enough.

Too much latitude?

Not enough Douglas Adams.….

42nd degree of latitude?

Henry J said:

Kevin B said:

Henry J said:

Kevin B said:

Just Bob said:

fnxtr said:

This chicken is no more… etc…

He’s just pinin’ for the fjords.

They’re not equatorial enough.

Too much latitude?

Not enough Douglas Adams.….

42nd degree of latitude?

Adams was involved in a great game called Bureaucracy. I bet “Theocracy” would be a fine sequel.

There is not a creationist on the planet interested in any logical or reasoned response to their rhetorhic. We leave our comments mostly for posterity and the occassional uninformed visitor passing through. By definition creationists have rejected reason and the scientific method by ignoring all the evidence around them in order to proselytize their misdirected faith. But they are interesting examples of doomed individual species members living on borrowed time.Its hard to imagine how hard one has to work to be that intentionally ignorant.

The willaful ignorance of creationists has to bladed over into their entire lives. Fantasy and denial in an individual can only persist if they have support or at least are ignored. Confront them politically because that is the only sphere they can assert their claims onto others, especially in education.

Matt Young said:

Sorry, but replies to Prometheist will be sent to the bathroom wall, regardless of merit.

Good, really.

prongs said:

Just Bob said:

Why am I reminded of creationists drawing lines between “completely ape” skulls and “completely human” ones (and not in the same place as other creationists)?

I have a copy of From Lucy To Language by Johanson and Edgar, 1996 Simon and Schuster. It contains full-size color reproductions of every hominid skull in existence at that time, I believe.

It is exquisite. The ‘progression’, if I may use that word, is gradual and unmistakable. (I do not imply “progress” but rather a sequence of temporal succession.)

I defy any Creationist to draw a line between ‘ape’ and ‘man’ amongst the photographs in this book. Another Creationist will draw a different line simply because there is no good way to differentiate ‘ape’ from ‘man’.

You have to see the plates to believe it. They are astounding.

If you want to have a look at some good hominid skull photos online you can have a look at Jim Foley’s excellent resource. He’s also tabled the pathetic and conflicting attempts by creationists to differentiate between ape and man.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/compare.html

scienceavenger said:

John said:

Some might argue persuasively that Geoffrey Chaucer might be a better candidate than Shakespeare…

Some might argue what Shakespeare spoke wasn’t English.

I’m not a linguist, nor claim to have any expertise in it, but your assertion is ridiculous to say the least. Why? Shakespeare’s plays have not been revised to reflect modern American English, but left largely intact as he had written them. If you were to assert that Shakespeare spoke Klingon, then perhaps you might have a valid point.

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