Stochastic Scribbles
Random musings in a variety of subjects, from science to religion.

A surgeon recused

Richard Wiseman has an interesting Friday puzzle that I have never heard of but is supposed to be a classic. It is mentioned that there are at least two logical solutions:

A man and his son are involved in a car crash. The father dies on the scene and the son is rushed to hospital. On arrival the surgeon on duty says “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!” How is this possible?

However, it didn’t take me much time to think of a lot more than two solutions. Is this because I had never heard of the puzzle before, so I had no preconceived “correct” answer that trapped me? Or is it a sign of changing times such that some of my suggested solutions are no longer “don’t even go there” answers? Or maybe there is something wrong with my sense of plausibility and logic.

  1. The surgeon is the mother.
  2. The boy has two fathers who are a gay couple, and the surgeon was one of them.
  3. The father who died is the husband of the surgeon’s divorced wife, and the son is the surgeon’s biological son.
  4. The surgeon is not the biological father of the son, the father who died was.
  5. The boy is too mangled and happened to be carrying something owned by the surgeon’s son, resulting in a case of mistaken identity.
  6. The surgeon was talking about another boy who arrived at the hospital, who happened to be in the other car involved in the car crash.

Admittedly, the last solution may be a stretch …

I’m sad to say that the first answer with the surgeon as the mother was the last one that occurred to me. I would like to think it is because I got stuck on “this puzzle is obviously trying to ask how someone can have two fathers”, but maybe I do have a subconscious gender bias. I better be careful: having a hidden gender bias can be an insidious influence when it might be better to openly acknowledge being a sexist and trying to deal with it. But it can be so hard to figure out what’s going on in my subconsciousness …