Friday, November 7, 2008

A Question of Precedence

Recently I was asked a question I’ve been asked many times before. A timeless imponderable that, unbeknownst to the masses who have asked it, lies at the very center of many greater issues.

The question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

If somehow, someone were able to answer this question in some verifiable way, it would resolve more of our philosophical, religious, and existential questions than anyone would ever give it credit for.

Most of the cretins who ask this question think it‘s some kind of joke. Said cretins fail to recognize the real significance of the chicken and the egg conundrum. Their idea is that every chicken came from and egg which was laid by a chicken who was hatched from an egg and so on throughout an eternity gone by. This quite simply cannot be the case. While it may be comforting to think of chickens as having existed since the beginning of time, at some point there had to be a beginning.

In my reasoning regarding the chicken’s beginning there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that the chicken came first.
In this case, abracadabra, a chicken spontaneously appeared from nothingness, laid an egg, and began the cycle of laying and hatching ad nauseum.

The first scenario suggests that sometime just after brunch on the fifth day, the Lord suddenly got the notion that we (you know, the folks created in His image) would live a much fuller and happier life if we were provided with an animal that craps out notoriously fragile little packets of food and has a skin that can’t be used for anything. Then He was so proud of this particular idea that He decided everything else he created afterwards should taste just like it.

I suppose this makes sense given a few other facts. First, He had been working non-stop without rest for over four days at this point. Second, the book of Genesis never states anything like, “on the third day, the Lord created caffeine and poured himself a triple espresso and He saw that it was good.”* Third, this is the same character who came up with the giraffe and the platypus. Clearly the proponents of “Intelligent Design” have to at least concede that much of this work is not the work of a serious craftsman.

Case in point: feet. Human feet in particular. Now I have nothing against feet and I can appreciate their aesthetic value every bit as much as the next man. The problem I have is a simple fault in the practical design of human feet. I have an engineering degree, so this is readily apparent to me, but there’s really no special training required to recognize their inherent flaws. You don’t even have to remove your shoes.

Look at your feet. You’ll notice that, barring any major injuries, they both point in some sort of forward direction. In fact, unless you are a practicing contortionist, your feet are typically oriented less than ninety degrees from one another. This design lacks even the most basic elements of stability. If you were a Christmas tree stand you’d fall down.

So it really can’t be called “Intelligent Design” with this glaring oversight. Clearly even the most basic design principles have been neglected. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the recreation areas are right next to the waste disposal areas. Maybe someday in the future my wisdom will be recognized regarding “Intelligent Design” and they’ll find a more appropriate name for it.

But now let’s go back to the second scenario.

In the second scenario the egg comes first. This would require the involvement of another creature. This was a creature that was very nearly a chicken but not quite. This not-quite-chicken laid an egg with a mutant chick. This is step one on the path toward evolution. Later, in step two, the mutant chick turned out to be a big hit. Step three came when this new and improved creature eventually got some nookie. In this step the mutant chick bred its genetic code into its descendants who, for whatever reason, would also turn out to be pretty popular with the ladies. These mutant chick descendants would later come to be known as “chickens.”

I like the theory of evolution. It makes sense to me. I know that I kinda look like my parents. It makes sense that if they had something wrong with them that precluded them from breeding, I wouldn’t be here. This is why, as the human race progresses, it will be less and less likely to produce ugly people. Men will get taller, boobs will get bigger, and our descendants will look at pictures of us with the same bemused condescension with which we viewed the Cro-Magnon Man. But this is fodder for another discussion altogether.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? For now, we don’t get to have answers so much as opinions. Personally, I prefer the second scenario. While I don’t know of any fossilized remnant of a chicken that was born from a mutated not-quite-chicken, I’ll be greatly comforted when it is finally found. When proof is found that a chicken egg was laid by something very nearly but not quite a chicken, then Darwin would be proven right once and for all, there would be no discussion of schools teaching mythology as fact, and countless religious institutions could fold up shop and go home.**

I will have to thank that fossilized not-quite-chicken when, at long last, the final cult nut knocks on my door and tries to hand me biblical brochures on a Sunday morning. When the not-quite-chicken puts an end to that, the world will be a better place.

*By all means, look it up. You’ll find there is no mention of a triple espresso in the first book of Genesis.

**This is a highly unlikely scenario. When fossilized evidence of an almost-chicken is discovered, religious fanatics will simply dismiss it by claiming that Satan put the chicken bones there to test their faith.

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