Chicken versus Egg: Which is in control?
Satire. While reading The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddharth Mukherjee (2021), the thought occurred we may, at last, put an end to the debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg? Actually, the debate began with the ancient Greeks, trying to decide if males or females were more important to the survival of Humankind. Of course, that was way long before Darwin and Mendel.
Gregor Johann Mendel, (1822-1884) as you may recall, was an Augustinian monk who served his abbey as its gardener, supplying his brother monks with their veggies. Mendel, who had a pea-plant fetish, wondered why some of his pea plants had white flowers and other pea plants produced yellow flowers? On his way to developing Mendelís Laws of Heredity, Mendel grew millions of peas. Tired of peas with every meal, his brother monks gave Mendel something else to occupy his time. They promoted Mendel to be their Abbot. Perhaps, an early manifestation of the Pea-ter Principle?
Recall, Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) went on an eight-month voyage of discovery, trying to figure out how the flora and fauna he encountered got their start in life, leading to his seminal work, The Origin of Species, (1859). (Note: some feminists object to the word "seminal.") Even so, down through the ages, Humankind, using the findings of Mendel and Darwin, tried to improve the productivity and even the appearance of humans and animals.
After microscopes came along, the discovery of a whole new world of cells led to the discovery of Genes, and the twisting spiral of the DNA Double Helix which, by the way, looks a lot like the male urine stream twisting on its way down into the urinal. Guys will probably look the next time. But I digress.
The debate over which is more important, the egg or the sperm, continues, to include a debate over the relative importance of men versus women. Unfortunately, some studies of heredity led to Eugenics and the Nazi practice of sterilizing and even euthanizing those the Nazis decided were unfit to live. Lebenunwertes.
Wow! Imagine Nazi geneticists at a hypothetical Western University for Human Alteration and Nazification (WUHAN), discovering a way to design Genes to make Nazi soldiers stronger and Allied soldiers weaker. (Do not confuse this with designer jeans by Calvin Klein.)
Chicken farmers try to improve profits by selective breeding. By improving the chicken, they can improve the egg. If they can improve the egg, they think they can produce more productive chickens.
But what if the "life force," that essence of all life that causes plants and animals to reproduce (a few can self-impregnate) resides in the egg and not in the chicken? Could it be that it is the eggs that are really in control? The chicken farmer thinks he or she is trying to produce better chickens. But what if, in reality, it is the eggs that are using the chicken to produce better eggs? That is probably a better question to ponder than watching to see if the twisting male urine stream approximates the DNA Double Helix.
Suggested reading: The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddharth Mukherjee, 2021. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford, 2017.
©2021. William Hamilton.>