Which came first — the chicken or the egg?
The question has a reputation for being difficult, perhaps even impossible, to answer. Philosophers treat it as a conundrum. But in the hands of an experimental scientist, the question is simple and straightforward, and the answer is easily obtained.
I doubt that I am the first to solve the chicken-and-egg problem, but a search of the scientific literature turned up surprisingly few accounts — none, in fact — of previous work. Here, then, is an account of my work on what turns out to be a trivial question.
How the Problem was Solved
Which came first — the chicken of the egg? I tackled the question experimentally, using a chicken, an egg, and the Dutch postal service.
I mailed the chicken and the egg, each in its own separate packaging, and kept careful track of when each shipment was sent from a post office in Rotterdam, and when it subsequently arrived at its intended destination in Groningen.
I mailed both the chicken and the egg at 9:40 a.m., on a Monday morning, from the Rotterdam . The staff there told methat this was the first chicken anyone had mailed in recent memory, and perhaps ever. Nonetheless, the postal employees handled both the chicken and the egg deftly, with dispatch, and with courtesy.
The intended destination for both packages was the Post Office in Groningen, which is located in the far North of Holland.
The Post Office in Groningen is open at 8 in the morning.
I inquired once per hour for both the chicken and the egg.
That day, Monday, neither the chicken nor the egg arrived.
The next day, Tuesday, neither the chicken nor the egg arrived.
The chicken arrived at 10:31 a.m. Wednesday. The staff at the post office told me that this was the first chicken anyone had mailed to the Post Office in recent memory, and perhaps ever.
The egg arrived that same day, at 9:37 p.m., eleven hours after the chicken.
It has now been empirically determined that the chicken came first, the egg second.
However, seeing the history of previous questions that were taken up first by philosophers and only later by scientists, I am loath to predict that these results — clear as they are — will settle the question to everyone’s satisfaction.