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


Posted on Sat Feb 12, 2005


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...)"

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  in  e.vil  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  in  Central Vermont  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  in  deleted  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... smile
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  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Sat Feb 12, 2005  at  01:47 PM
Christopher, it's not a question of where, but when.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Dallas, Texas  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  in  Tucson, AZ  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?) smile
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  in  Pennsylvania  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. 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  in  deleted  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
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