March 20, 2011

The chicken or egg dilemma !

I was helping Pranav complete and understand a puzzle depicting the life cycle of a hen. It was like this.....

It was just a simple puzzle and probably did not need much explanation to a 5 year old. But as with all children, Pranav didn't buy it and asked how can it start with an egg....there should be a hen first....!

I was taken aback for a moment...but then I said ..umm ya ok...that's also possible....we can start with hen and then the life-cycle could be ... Hen->Egg ->.....and so on... . This confused him further and he asked - then how did the hen come ?

I was amazed at the question and the thought process of a 5 year old ! Kids have such open mind without any pre-conceived notions but as we grow older we stop questioning a lot of things.

It is such a simple question and yet so complex. The little one did not know that he had just asked a fundamental question about life and universe.... a dilemma...a question that has perplexed generations from the times of Aristotle or even earlier.

I was in a catch-22 situation- whatever explanation I gave, the cycle had to start from somewhere. Every start led to another logical dilemma.

For the first time I tried looking into what exactly is going on in this regard and found that various practitioners have tried to find answer to this in their own ways.

Wikipedia summaries various beliefs regarding this question here.

Interesting to know is that as per the Hindu Mythology, the supreme 'cosmic egg' from which the whole universe originated comes before all creatures and this egg is called 'Brahmanda' = 'Brahma' (Creator) and 'Anda' (Egg). I knew the meaning of Brahma as the creator but never knew the break up of the word 'Brahmanda'.

The only convincing theory seems to be from the Darwin's evolution according to which a mutation might have taken place at conception or within the egg such that an animal similar to chicken (but not chicken) laid the first chicken egg.

Very recently in 2010, British scientists claimed to have solved this mystery saying ' The scientists found that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, according to the paper Wednesday. The egg can therefore only exist if it has been created inside a chicken.' Which means that the hen came first.

But many do not buy this theory and are of the view that this is exactly the same as what has been stated in the Bible and so is not anything new.

CREATION, DAY 5: "And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.'" –Gen.1:20-22

So there still isn't a conclusive end to the argument. But now, after all this study, when I tried to strike a conversation about this with Pranav, with the intention of explaining him that he had asked a very good question to which there isn't a definite answer, he seemed to have made up his mind that hen came first and no longer wants to argue on this topic :-(