Which Comes First: The Egg or the Shell

I guess I was falling asleep, taking a nap maybe, and my mind started to roam.  That’s a good sign, when the mind starts to roam; that means I am falling asleep.  One day my mind started roaming, and I was like the Prince in Cinderella going around with that slipper trying to find the foot that fit it, except I was going around with an eyeball looking for a face that needed one.  This should have been easy but it seemed like I found a lot of faces that needed eyeballs.  I don’t know what happened because I fell asleep.

This time my mind was roaming and for some reason I remembered that Homo sapiens women are born with—or have present at birth—all the eggs, stored in the ovaries I suppose, that they will ever have.  And then I wondered if this was also true of chickens, but got all confounded when I realized chicken eggs appear outside of the body of the chicken and the eggs of homo sapiens women do not because they have wombs.

So then I wondered how the hell a chicken produces an egg.  Maybe a chicken does not have a womb but there must be some place in a chicken where the egg builds up like it does to a full egg size and then pops out.  I was amazed that I had never thought of this before in my entire life.  I had never given even a single second’s thought to this issue of chicken anatomy.

I have long felt the egg itself to be kind of miracle of food packaging.  Here there is this neat, white (or some other color) sort of oval shaped thing with food right inside it.  True, the oval shape makes for an unstable object. Square eggs would be better for the purposes of shipping since they could be stacked next to each other more efficiently than is now the case, but that might be a real pain for the chicken.

Out the window went my nap!  My mind was no longer roaming. I consternated myself by suddenly realizing that I had never adequately reflected on the origin of an egg.  So I went and looked it up on the web.  Turns out—and I had never thought of this either!—that the egg shell while feeling hard to the touch is actually at the microscopic level a permeable membrane.  Well, naturally, of course…the egg needs oxygen and were the shell not permeable the little chicken inside would die.  That would be pretty much a self-defeating egg, one without a permeable shell.  I could have concluded that pretty much deductively since growing things do need oxygen.  But as I said I hadn’t ever given it a single thought.

Then I found out that the chicken does not create the shell; the egg does.  The egg or oven generates the genetic information necessary to build up the shell around itself; otherwise it could not develop, lacking a womb in which to do so. So the ovum builds its own womb so to speak.

I still cannot conclusively answer the question: which came first the chicken or the egg.  Actually I hate chicken egg questions, like the nature-nurture questions, as being mostly a waste of time, fit material for philosophic pedants, I suppose.  This I call bad philosophy.  But I think I can now say conclusively that the ovum comes before the shell and the chicken with the ovum inside of it comes before the ovum, and in this way I can conclude that the chicken does come before the egg in the case of any particular chicken or egg.  But the chicken egg question—as a philosophic matter—is not about any particular chicken or egg that ever existed or ever will.

So there went my nap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *