c + e


“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

This age-old question has been at the center of more than a few academic feuds over the years. Its polarizing effect has left a sharp and bitter divide in the world of Higher Rhetoric, much like Einstein and Bohr split the 20th-century physics community.

Last I heard, there was no consensus. Did the first chicken lay the first egg? Or did the first egg hatch the first chicken?

It’s really a question of cause and effect. Cause precedes effect, so we might say that the first chicken was the CAUSE of the first egg (the EFFECT of the first hen a-laying). Similarly, we might say that the first egg was the CAUSE of the first chicken (the EFFECT of the first egg a-hatching).

One day, while diagramming the chicken-and-egg question (something I do from time to time), I made an astonishing discovery. I had used the variables “C” and “E” to represent “CAUSE” and “EFFECT” (respectively). Since “cause” begins with a “C” and “effect” begins with an “E”, this seemed a logical choice.

But wait…what is another word that begins with “C”? CHICKEN. And another word that begins with “E”? EGG.

Coincidence? I think not.


If E = EFFECT and E = EGG, then EGG = EFFECT.

Since cause, by definition, precedes effect, we can safely say that the chicken preceded the egg.