The Chicken and The Egg: An Editorial on Causality

The causality conundrum is oft used in science fiction, but it is a very real concept. Basically the theory states that cause and effect are tied in a never ending loop in that the cause creates the effect (which we all know) with the added reciprocation that the cause cannot exist without the effect. The chicken and the egg are probably the most common example of this, as the argument goes that the chicken cannot exist without the egg and conversely the egg cannot exist without the chicken.


Temporal causality or simply causality applies to every day situations even though we rarely identify it as such. The concept is fascinating because it is so incredibly identifiable. Think for a moment that you took a new job. The new job you took turns out to be terrible for your career and you wish you had never taken it. Causality states that the effect of you wishing you would have never taken the job would not be possible had you not taken the job, but you could not have known the job was terrible unless you took it. So how then do we break the causality loop and not take the job that ends up being detrimental to the career.


Fiction writers and film makes have taken this concept and run with it, but still kept it very relateable to the common man. The piece that holds causality in a line and that keeps it stuck is the time line. Because time is linear we are never able to step out of the causality loop, ergo you cannot know the outcome of an action before the action takes place. Obviously I am alluding to time travel, the staple of science fiction. I will leave the discussion of time as perception for another post, but the concept ties directly into causality. Perhaps another analogy is in order.


Now I know I have lost some of you already, so I will leave you a final analogy that is hopefully more relateable to the opposite sex than the previous example. Say you meet someone you are interested in. Over the course of days, weeks, months, and years that person teaches you to love. After a time you lose that person for one reason or another, and after some additional time you realize that you made a mistake and you want that person back but the person is gone or has moved on. The causality conundrum is that you lost the person that you love, but you would have never learned to love had you not met that person (Shakespeare quote anyone?).


Causality is the inescapable truth that cause an effect are forever linked. You cannot know the effect without the cause, and the cause in many cases cannot exist without the effect. So the next time you are asked which came first, the chicken or the egg? You can confidently answer… yes.


Alfred Lord Tennyson: poem In Memoriam:27

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.