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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Geezer or the Giraffe

A Problem With the Logic...


My sister posted a riddle on Facebook, the answer to which, she claims I got wrong. She also got it "wrong" and has changed her avatar to a Giraffe.  Here is the riddle: 
  • 3:00 am, the doorbell rings, and you wake up. You have unexpected visitors. It's your parents, and they have arrived for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread, and a variety of fine cheese. What is the first thing you open? If you get it right you have bragging rights on the post, but do not tell the answer! If you get it wrong, you must change your profile picture to a giraffe.
My answer:  THE DOOR
The supposedly correct answer:  YOUR EYES

Sis was doing some serious gloating over my mistake let me tell you, but I disagree with the "correct" answer and I ain't doing the Giraffe. The story asks its question about what I need to open first after I've already opened my eyes and gone to see who's at the door. The decision-making process it asks about begins there, not in the bed. You cannot know it's your parents or that they are at the door if your eyes are closed. The question is deliberately flawed to play the "gotcha" when you get it wrong as you surely will if you do not think logically about the question. The answer is a logical cheat. It gives you information that your parents are here, at the door and you have all this stuff for breakfast and then asks you to make a decision based on information, that you cannot have with eyes closed, as to which thing to open first. You cannot know any of this stuff if you are asleep or your eyes closed. 

At the point the question is asked, you must already be awake and up. The decision asked about, must therefore be made at that point, not while you're back in the bed, eyes closed. To get the answer "your eyes", you must ignore the context of the question or rewrite the story so that you're lying in bed with your eyes closed when you make the momentous decisions "What do I open first?" This is not specified, so, based on the information given in the story, one must deduce that the decision point is after your eyes are already open, but before the parents are admitted to the house (which we are not told has happened yet). So, "your eyes" is not the correct answer to this puzzle - Quod erat demonstrandum.

The problem is that kids who make these things up are not learning logic in school and precious little about the niceties of the English language apparently. To quote Professor Digory in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, "What are they teaching in schools these days?"

So which is it to be............the geezer (me) or the giraffe?

© 2013 by Tom King


Nick said...

Yeah, that is the first thing I said to my wife. The riddle says in it that you wake up. Part of waking up is opening your eyes.

Tom King said...

Absolutely, Nick! Waking up is opening your eyes. You may close them later and pretend to not be awake, but waking up equals opening your eyes. It's instinctive. The decision making comes after your awake and you've already opened your eyes!