Which Came First?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question is very old. Most people ask this question with a twinkle in their eye. It’s not meant as a serious question. There’s no answer. Taking the question seriously can start an argument.
The question refers to the origin of things. What is the origin of matter? How did it get organized? These questions are no problem for Christians or ancient Israelites. Ancient Israel believed “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1: 1) Christians believe Jesus Christ created all things. John 1: 3 states, “Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made” (NIV) And according to Colossians 1: 16,
“For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” NIV
But According to Philosophers . . .
For Western philosophers, however, it’s not so easy.
Western philosophers asked this for millennium. Scientists started to ask it a couple of centuries ago. Of course, they change it around a bit. Asking about chickens and eggs seems silly. So they ask, “How did everything come to be?”
First, philosophers asked the question. Two early philosophers were Leucippus and Democritus. They lived around the fifth century B.C. This is even before Socrates These two Greeks lived in Miletus. It’s a town on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor.
Some call these two men the fathers of modern science. They believe the world is the result of natural laws. They believed only in the existence of the physical world. There is no purpose; there is no first cause. Plato speaks of their belief in chapter X of Laws,
“They say that fire and water, and earth and air, all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art [art refers to creation by thought or intent], and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only.”
Democritus went a step further. He believed in the existence of atoms. Atoms were the smallest units of matter; so small they cannot be divided. In the beginning, the atoms were a churning, chaotic soup. They collided together. They began to form larger groups. Democritus held this as the beginning of everything.
Plato did not trust this doctrine. He continues in Laws, chapter X, “these people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places.” Followers of Democritus believe gods are created by men. Gods exist according to state laws. Gods do not exist in nature.
Plato Does Not Agree
Plato pointed out their most basic error. They believed nature was formed first. The soul was formed afterward. According to Plato, “they affirm that which is the first cause . . . to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.”
So how, according to Plato, did the world begin? What was the first step? It all began with motion. No motion, no change. No change, no world.
What is the source of motion? Motion does not begin all by itself. Some principle or essence or being must start motion. Plato refers to this as self-motion.
“Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.”
How to describe this substance with the ability of self-motion? Plato says “we should call such a self-moving power ‘life!’”
This self-moving essence is given the name “soul.” According to Plato, “the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be . . . she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?” Soul also is considered the oldest of all things.
So there you have it. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did soul arise from matter? If so, what caused the first motion? How could atoms come together without motion? But first motion is not a natural event. Is it supernatural? Science cannot show that a supernatural event exists.
What About Today?
Today scientists ask similar questions. Scientists are specialized philosophers of today.
They ask, “Is the universe the result of natural processes?” Some answer “yes,” others “no.” Do we have enough evidence to prove it scientifically? No, but we do have enough evidence to show natural selection is not a credible answer at this time.
Democritus felt the universe was the result of the random collision of atoms. There is no science to confirm this. Macro-molecules are required for life. Examples of macro-molecules are proteins and DNA. But without life these molecules quickly break down. Which came first? The macro-molecules are required for life. Life is required to sustain those macro-molecules.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? One cannot exist without the other.
Will we ever know for sure? Perhaps one day. For now it’s a matter of faith. The important question is this: did God create all of this or is it a matter of natural processes? Or possibly, one day, we will discover the ancient Israelites and Christians were right all along.