Egg-regious Errors in Chicken Logic

By David L. Brown

It is being claimed that one of the most pressing questions of the ages has been answered—albeit without scientific rigor and in order to promote the release of a new Disney cartoon movie.

Addressing the major scientific issue of which came first, the chicken or the egg, a panel of eggsperts have concluded that the egg had to come first. Star Phoenix Base doesn’t think this is egg-sactly right, but first here is the main story as reported on CNN.com today:

LONDON, England — 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.” Read it all.

Now why would we differ with this conclusion? We’re not generally inclined to just go along with the rest of the flock, so we decided to peck out the alternatives, refusing to put all of our theoretical eggs in one basket so to speak. Of course, it is always difficult to gauge the distant past, to an era when the chicken was merely a twinkle in Col. Sanders’ eye. But let us give it a try.

First, Prof. Brookfield uses false logic in assigning a “pecking order” to this question, since only chickens, not eggs, are capable of pecking. This pun-ishing approach to a serious question is obviously intended to confuse the issue.

But he is wrong on a much more serious level, for he says “the first bird that evolved … must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.” This is an egg-regious error in logic, so pardon us if we squawk about it.

As the good Professor admits, no animal is likely to change while gestating inside an egg! He claims that demonstrates that the egg came first, but that not only flies in the face of the facts, it stands up on the barn roof and crows with indignation. We propose that Dr. Brookfield has hatched a misguided theory in the interests of gaining publicity for himself and the Disney moviemakers.

As any student of science is aware, evolutionary change takes place through mutation. And, any mutation involved in the chicken-egg process had to have taken place in the parent bird, not the embryo developing inside the egg. Specifically, that mutation had to have taken place in the female that laid the first egg, during her embryonic development.

So, to return to Dr. Brookfield’s statement, the first chicken to hatch from an egg was NOT “the first bird that evolved,” as he states. No, it was the proto-chicken that laid that egg that had evolved, and what had resulted from that evolution was the capability to lay an egg that contained a chicken embryo.

While we agree that the parent of the first chicken would not have been a chicken herself, she would have been the first to bear the newly mutated chicken gene that allowed her to lay and hatch the egg. It is the genes that count, and thus the proto-hen that laid the first true chicken egg was the source of that gene.

Case closed. While you might not be able to call the first creature to lay an egg a chicken, she was the “mother hen” of the entire race of chickens and thus deserving of first place in the order of evolution that has brought us such delights as Chicken McNuggets, Pollo Con Arroz, and Crispy Chicken Fingers. (Oh, wait, chicken fingers haven’t evolved … yet. Sorry.)

Pardon us if we pose another philosophical conundrum of the ages for Dr. Brookfield: How to find a hen’s tooth in a haystack. That ought to keep his mind occupied for quite some time.

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