Apparently, this question goes back at least as far as Greek historian Mestrius Plutarchus, who was born in 46 AD. It is an interesting question to try asking your kids or grandchildren just to see what they come up with. Often they will answer before they have really thought through the implications of the question.
Anything that gets kids thinking for themselves is, in my opinion, a very good thing so by asking the question, you will have done them a great service once they can understand why it is a good question. You will have illustrated the concept of a paradox without boring the pants off them and you will have shown them that some questions really do require a great deal of thought.
The ability to do well in life will be dependent, to a very large extent, upon their talent for solving problems, so don’t be too eager to provide your kids with any kind of answer. Let them chew it over and see what they come up with. I believe that any kind of well thought out and logical answer should be acceptable. It is not important whether or not they get the right answer; it is much more important that they exercised the old grey matter and did some original thinking.
Everyone who meets him would agree that the son of a friend of mine has exceptionally good reasoning ability, and he had been chewing this question over for some time. The last time I saw him, he told me that he not only had an answer, but that he knew it was right. This is quite an assertion, so I was very keen to hear what he had to say about the matter.
He said that the answer was: the egg. First off, I love the fact that he had thought about the question and come up with his own answer. Now for his reasoning. He said that the question did not stipulate a chicken’s egg and that it was well known that eggs had evolved long before chickens; consider dinosaurs, for example. Wow! Great answer. Whether or not you believe in evolution is not the crux of the issue. What makes this a good answer is its logical consistency.
For a child to come up with that answer as a product of his own thinking is, I think, quite amazing. Is it the right answer? Well, as I said, it is a good answer, but you could argue the opposite way if you wished. As long as your answer is logically sound, it is a good answer. Here’s an example of the opposite answer being very well argued.
As I said, by giving your kids questions like this to consider, I believe that you are helping them to acquire a key life skill. Who knows, perhaps they will become the philosophers of the future and eventually get to grapple with the big questions like, can God create a stone he cannot lift? By the way, I’ll probably share the answer of my friend’s son to that question in a future post.