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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 by The Curator on Sat Feb 12, 2005


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  01:42 PM
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  in  Ohio  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  01:57 PM
I despise Paul Harvey. Good day.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  03:04 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  03:24 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  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  04:31 PM
I had it but wasn't sure! downer
Posted by Carl_P  in  NY  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  05:30 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  06:53 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  07:38 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  08:13 PM
87.52% of all statistics are made up on the spot!
Posted by Sharruma  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  08:16 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  10:41 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  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  01:04 AM
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  03:44 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  07:33 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  09:15 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  10:42 AM
The answer is the Doctor is the boys mother smile
Posted by Oscar  in  Virginia  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  12:30 PM
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  01:17 PM
The real answer is my cat, at least in it's own mind.
Posted by Joe  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  04:16 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  05:56 PM
my answer was dirt....
Posted by ellsworth butler  in  usa  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  07:50 PM
I heard this joke before and got it immediately, but this time I got hung up trying to think of something simple and just got frustrated and clicked the link, about 20 clicks later it hits me and I remember the first time I heard it, just to make myself feel good I said I got it.

People get stupider with age.
Posted by Ariel  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  08:01 PM
On the whole god thing . . . many atheists are frustrated with the whole idea of religion and would simply skip that part of the riddle, which is probably the easiest.
Posted by Ariel  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  08:05 PM
hmmmm....Being a die hard athiest...I could only come up with oxygen or air....but since that didn't quite fit...I had to go look. bahhhhh
Posted by Plaisham  in  Burnaby BC  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  08:56 PM
I'm going to get needlessly annoyed about the rooster riddle because it's always ticked me off.

The thing about riddles is what they tell you is then assume to be true. Somebody tells you "a rooster lays an egg", making it true in the little universe of riddles. Then for them to say "the rooster DIDN'T lay the egg!" is to completely do a 180.

For example, when somebody asks you "What did the chewing gum say to the shoe?", the hilarious and very clever answer will be "I'm stuck on you." Not, "AHA! Shoes and bubblegum don't converse! Idiot."
Posted by Criq  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  01:03 AM
Heh Criq, that made me laugh...

Anyways, I got the answer pretty quickly, but I highly highly doubt that 80% of Kindergartners got it.

The part about "eat it and you'll die" tipped me off. I started thinking it was air and went on from there.

As to the religious sections, those really threw me off. I happen to be an Athiest Jew (yah, it sounds contradictory, but I swear it isn't), and I just saw the word "God" and "Devil" and automatically assumed I wouldn't get it, so I just kind of ignored those sections.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  01:58 AM
I got it before finishing reading it, even if I'm not for sure a theist, and even not an english native speaker. This because, being a roleplayer, I know the "tricking" way of thinking that lies behind riddles... a way of thinking that would almost never work in a scientific/technical environment where problems are real ones.
As an hilarious example of that way of thinking, to people that knows Terry Pratchett, think in "Pyramids" the encounter with the Sphinx... raspberry
Posted by fizz  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  07:34 AM
This is the first time I've seen this riddle. I must say it's pretty good. It took me a couple of minutes but I figured it out (thanks to my Christian upbringing I guess). Oh, and I'm neither in kindergarten nor university right now.
Posted by Eva  in  Florida  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  08:52 AM
Being very boring but - if you take the answer (which I failed to get) logically - its wrong.
Posted by midlandsea  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  07:10 PM
midlandsea said;

"if you take the answer ... logically - its wrong."

AAB had the same "insight"

It's a riddle, git. The riddle of the sphinx is "logically" wrong too, but everyone gets it.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Tue Feb 15, 2005  at  07:29 PM
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