Paul Harvey Riddle

Gary C. sent me this riddle which has been doing the rounds on email for quite a while, though I had never seen it before. As Gary pointed out, the interesting thing about this is not whether it really is a Paul Harvey riddle (I have no clue), or even the riddle itself. It's the claim that 80% of kindergarten kids got the answer while 83% of Stanford graduates were unable to. Instead of trying to track down whether or not a group of Stanford graduates ever has been tested with this riddle, I thought I'd do the next best thing. Take an unscientific poll of Museum of Hoaxes readers to see how many of you are able to figure out the answer right away vs. aren't able to. That'll give a rough approximation of the percentage of (presumably over-kindergarten age) people able to solve the riddle, assuming people answer the poll honestly.

I have to admit that I couldn't get the answer. I finally gave up and googled for the answer.

If you've seen the riddle before and already know the answer, then base your response to the poll on the first time you ever saw the riddle. Did you figure out the answer immediately? If you were in kindergarten when you first were given the riddle, then don't respond to the poll.

I put the answer in a link below for those people, like myself, unable to figure it out.

Paul Harvey RIDDLE:
When asked this riddle, 80% of kindergarten kids got the answer, compared to 17% of Stanford University seniors.

What is greater than God, More evil than the devil, The poor have it, The rich need it, And if you eat it, you'll die?

Send this to 10 people and then press shift and you will get the answer.
P.S. You won't believe this, but this really does give you the answer!!!!


The Answer

Psychology

Posted on Sat Feb 12, 2005



Comments

I already knew the answer to this, so you can't count my vote either way. I had to be told the answer, and I am neither a knidergardener or a Stanford grad so it won't skew the stats either way.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  09:27 AM
No, I'm still interested in your answer. You mustn't have seen the line where I said:
If you've seen the riddle before and already know the answer, then base your response to the poll on the first time you ever saw the riddle.

Maybe I should bold it.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  09:36 AM
Wow, this is an old one. I worked it out really quickly last time I saw it, but I'm not sure if that was the first time or ifI qwas subconsciously remembering it.

BTW, I think your introduction skews the poll, because it warns us not to look for "all kinds of complicated things (alphabetic sequences, hidden mathematical formulae...)"

Joe
Posted by Joe Mason  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  09:52 AM
Joe, you're right. I just removed that line.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  09:56 AM
Well I got the riddle right away, but I had to Google Paul Harvey.
Posted by andy  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:18 AM
OK alex, I voted.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:40 AM
I can't figure it out.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:58 AM
:-/
I've seen the question before and wasn't able to get it. I'm not in kindergarden or a Stanford grad. It's a little hard for a non-religious person like myself.
Posted by Idril  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:59 AM
I don't believe that kindergarteners succeed at the rates listed.

As for my reaction, I could tell it was clearly some sort of trick answer, and I was right.

Also, you'd have to believe quite firmly in the whole God/Satan thing to find something which satisfies the first two phrases to begin with.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  11:01 AM
...Wondering about the religious aspect too. I wasn't brought up Christian, so it wouldn't be the first thing that came to mind.
Posted by Winona  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  11:32 AM
I just never cared enough to think what it was... 😊
Posted by Drunk Stepdad  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  12:13 PM
I've seen this riddle before, not sure if it was in an old riddle book or a Mensa book. Or maybe on a diner placemat? I am not religous but I found it easy to figure out.

Maybe this one is easier for you all.
How much dirt is in a 8 inch by 12 inch by 8 inch hole?
Posted by Katey  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  12:26 PM
there is no dirt in a hole. however, if a rooster is on top of a barn and lays an egg, which way will the egg roll? East or west?
Posted by thephrog  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  12:39 PM
"If a rooster is on top of a barn and lays an egg..." is another old one. I don't know which way the egg would roll, but The Globe and all the other checkout stand tabloids would be paying a fortune for the photos. I just wonder if anyone would believe a rooster (a male) could lay an egg (biologically the function of a female)?

However, if we are going to repeat old joke/riddles, how about the one "If a plane crashes on the border between the U.S.A. and the Dominion of Canada, where do they bury the survivors?"
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  01:47 PM
Christopher, it's not a question of where, but when.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  03:32 PM
Big Gary, in all the times I've used that alleged puzzle, your's is the first with that response. And, I forgot to mention that I hadn't got the Paul Harvey puzzle although I knew I had heard it before. All those in favor of outlawing bad memory say: "Huh?"
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  03:53 PM
At first I thought it was money, but then when I saw "The poor have it and the rich need it" that was a dead give away.

My mom got all uptight when I asked her the question and started screaming "NOTHING IS GREATER THAN GOD!" ..So that's why she got it. She didn't listen to the rest of the riddle.
Posted by Rita  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  04:21 PM
I didn't get it, but then I didn't try very hard.
Posted by PlantPerson  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  05:27 PM
Indeed. The riddle is easier for people who are used to the "nothing is greater than god" thing.

Maybe it should be rephrased, to something like "what is greater than the greatest thing" and so on.

Then at least we would not have that excuse of being atheists for failing to solve it. (what's greater than god? What god?) 😊
Posted by Kentaro Mori  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  08:26 PM
Kentaro's right. I'm a religious person and I thought it was really easy. But at the same time, I'm a computer nerd and know that pushing shift does nothing. (Sorry I just gave the answer away!)
Posted by Cathy  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:00 PM
god is just odg spelt sideways
Posted by Sharruma  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  10:25 PM
Ha! I got it and was feeling quite smug, until I read the above comments. Now I'm thinking, rather than comparing Kids and Uni Seniors, maybe a more revealing study would compare religious people and non believers. It seems that the riddle does have a Religious/Christian bias.
Posted by Pix  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  11:40 PM
Besides the necessity of believing in God in the first place to come up with the "correct" answer, the riddle has another problem. The poor don't have "nothing." They have less money than the rich by definition, but that doesn't mean that they have NONE or "nothing."

The "riddle" is stupid, therefore it probably did originate with Paul Harvey. Time to buy an eight-pound Oreck vacuum and a Bose Wave radio. Page two!
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  04:04 AM
i tried for about 10 seconds then gave up. so you can't really count mine as I didnt really try, but I thought I'd post anyway!
Posted by thunder  in  England  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  04:50 AM
The reason that kids can get the answer and not many "educated adults" is that kids stop listening after the first part of the question, "what is greater than God?" (Like Rita's Mom)

If the riddle was reworded to start with the rich and poor business, I bet the kids wouldn't know either.
Posted by Bill  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  05:05 AM
The whole point of the riddle is to show the relevance of God to an 'innocent' child, who has not yet been through the world & an 'educated' student ready for graduation. ...as in, no matter how educated you are, if you have faith like a child you'll understand everything.

...I first saw this about 6 years ago...I didn't know anything about God, and I still figured it out after reading it through just once.

It's a riddle. Stop picking it apart and just admit you don't get it.

You can't rephrase a riddle...the whole point of a riddle is in it's phrase.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  05:06 AM
On a more sadistic note, I got sidetracked with the whole "eat it, and it'll kill ya" part. I started to go through my list of known poisons and toxins! Then of course there's the point that if you eat too much of anything (even something as innocent as water) it'll kill you.
Posted by Laura  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  06:40 AM
Maegan, "picking things apart" is how people learn things, whether it be theology or science or biology.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  08:26 AM
The phrase 'greater than' immediately made me think it was a mathematical puzzle in disguise, so I began to try to apply numeric values to the words and see if it was some kind of alphabetic progression. Talk about overanalyzing the stupid thing.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  09:24 AM
I had never heard this before and I didn't get it although I didn't try hard because I suspected it had a centrist religious theme. I also suspect the stats are phony designed to make a boring riddle more interesting.
I used to listen to Paul Harvey with great interest years ago. Then one day he told a story about something that happened in my area. He got all the facts screwed up and from then on he lost credibility with me.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  10:32 AM
Paul Harvey lost credibility with me when during the first Gulf War he advocated dropping a neutron bomb on Iraq as a humane thing to do since it would kill everyone quickly (then segued into a pitch for whatever crap he was shilling for at the time).

Before then I just thought of him as some guy on the radio station my mother listened to who told harmless little stories. Now I can't think of him as anything other than a monster.
Posted by kf  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  11:42 AM
I'm a college grad, not from Stanford though. Totally whiffed on the answer! I was thinking money as well, but after seeing the answer I had one of them forehead smacking reactions of Duh!
Posted by Captain Platypus  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  11:57 AM
I despise Paul Harvey. Good day.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  01:04 PM
I saw this for the first time in a slide-show presentation that was on one of those free greeting card sites, about six months ago. You could address & send the riddle to anyone's email you knew. But it was prefaced by more of the riddle, or maybe the original was added to. It started with 'What is it?..... This word has seven letters..... Preceded God.....'-then the rest was as stated. When the riddle was done, they only gave you about 15 seconds to answer it. No, I didn't get it the first time, even with a couple more clues than stated above. Guess I'll see you in the afterlife, Paul in Holland.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  01:24 PM
I don't agree that you would need to believe in God (or the Devil) to figure out this riddle; you would only need to have heard of God and the Devil.

Anyhow, it looks like only about one out of three readers guessed the riddle, so, Alex, I apologize for my earlier comment that 95% of dogs would be able to figure it out.

That still leaves us with the question of whether there really is a higher percentage of kindergarteners than Stanford students who can get the right answer. Until somebody tells me who tested this and when, and lets me see their data, I think I'll assume that that claim was just made up out of thin air.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  02:31 PM
I had it but wasn't sure! :down:
Posted by Carl_P  in  NY  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  03:30 PM
I don't think you need to believe in God to figure out this puzzle, you only have to understand the popular concept of God. I'm an athiest and I think it's a cop out (of course, I didn't figure it out, but I blame that on my being an intellectual light weight)

If the question was "What's North of Santa's workshop", I don't think people who didn't get it would be apt to say "Oh, well I don't believe in Santa, so naturally I wouldn't have figured it out".
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  04:53 PM
Joe Sixpack said:

"I don't think you need to believe in God to figure out this puzzle, you only have to understand the popular concept of God. I'm an athiest and I think it's a cop out (of course, I didn't figure it out, but I blame that on my being an intellectual light weight)"

OK, point well-taken, but I DO think that the thrust of the "riddle" implies a belief in God--kind of like "Well, EVERYONE believes in God and everyone knows that NOTHING is greater than God so you should be able to figure this out immediately."

As for Paul Harvey, he's been caught numerous times airing stories that had NO basis in fact. Check out snopes.com; I believe there's a few examples of him doing that there. He's hardly a credible source of information.
Posted by crankymediaguy  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  05:38 PM
Since there is no such thing as 'God', everything is greater than or equal to 'God'.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  06:13 PM
87.52% of all statistics are made up on the spot!
Posted by Sharruma  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  06:16 PM
Took about 10 minutes, though I must admit that the note about the higher result for children led me to think along the lines of a _really_ simple answer. After years of schooling to learn to do things like solve the equation or answer the test question it's a little hard to let go of the assumption that there IS an answer if you work hard enough. Yes, I do understand that it is the valid answer, it sure felt like giving up.
Posted by Bob J.  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  08:41 PM
C-M-G said
"OK, point well-taken, but I DO think that the thrust of the "riddle" implies a belief in God--kind of like "Well, EVERYONE believes in God and everyone knows that NOTHING is greater than God so you should be able to figure this out immediately.""

Yeah, I'd have to agree with that. I could see kindergardeners (who spent lots of time in sunday school) getting it without much thought.

"As for Paul Harvey, he's been caught numerous times airing stories that had NO basis in fact. "

Paul Harvey is the radio equivilant of the Weekly World News, only people take him seriously. Sad, isn't it?
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  11:04 PM
Joe Sixpack said:

"Paul Harvey is the radio equivilant of the Weekly World News, only people take him seriously. Sad, isn't it?"

Well, there's a tendency for people to think that if something is big or has been around for a while that it MUST be legitimate. I confess to falling into that logical trap at times myself.

When I catch myself thinking like that, I remind myself that Enron was the sixth-largest company in America at one point. It doesn't really follow logically, but we all tend to think that an entity that large just COULDN'T be fraudulent. Uh, guess again. Paul Harvey is the Enron of radio commentators (with Limbaugh right behind him). Big does not automatically equal legit.
Posted by crankymediaguy  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  01:44 AM
I got it after a bit, but I was trying to work it out as, y'know, 'evil' is 'devil' without the D, so if that was a 'D', what could all the other bits be?

Then I just got it. I think I might have heard it before, although I don't remember, because I'm not a religious person, and it seems to be an illogical answer.

Ah well, there ya go.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  05:33 AM
I starterd just like Boo and Alex, counting letters. Then I passed to "what do poors have that rich don't" and I was running around "humbleness", "dignity", that sort of things. But it was the P.S. that "gave" me the answer. I know almost nothing about computers, but I assumed that it was a trick. I thought what might happen when clicking SHIFT, would the computer shut down? Probably nothing would happen... Aha!!! So I got the answer, but I'm not sure I'd figured out the riddle without that "extra" help.
So I don't think you have to believe in God or have been brought up as a catholic to get the answer. I think you only need to know what God and the Devil mean to catholics. But I can see how children get it, just like others have mentioned it, they don't get past the God sentence. So I would say the statistic is not valid because they don't solve the riddle, they give an answer to a question (that is only the begining of the riddle)
Posted by corax  in  Lisbon - Portugal  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  07:15 AM
A riddle only really makes perfect sense to the person who thought it up. I have a hard time believing this was thought up by Paul Harvey & the stats seem even less authentic...this is probably just one of those things that people use to go "See, I told you it was REAL." Because it can't easily be proven 'wrong'.

Think about it like this. In "The Hobbit", Bilbo Baggins asks the riddle "What do I have in my pocket?" to the gollum. The answer could only be one thing for Bilbo. The Ring. If I asked that question, the answer would be something like a tissue, a tube of Carmex, & a nickel. It doesn't quite have the same affect. The original riddle only meant something to the one who thought it up.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  08:42 AM
The answer is the Doctor is the boys mother 😊
Posted by Oscar  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  10:30 AM
Who told you the Answer? Was it The Council? Was it... "Raoul"? Tell me. I must know.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  11:17 AM
The real answer is my cat, at least in it's own mind.
Posted by Joe  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  02:16 PM
"Nothing is greater than God, More evil than the devil, The poor have nothing, The rich need nothing, And if you eat nothing, you'll die?"

Not a single sentence (phrase) is correct:

* Greater in what sense?
* What is God?
* What is devil?
* The poor have something (just not enough).
* The rich need a lot of stuff.
* You may not die if you are on a life support and don't eat (like many vegetative stage people in comas)
Posted by AAB  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  03:56 PM
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