Many people have been baffled by the age-old question:
“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?”
Although many claim this question is unanswerable (see Birch, Mahogany, Pine, and Oak, “Uncertainties of the Marmota Monax in Wood Choice and Chucking” Animal Decision Studies, Vol. 56, No. 8, November 22, 1997, pp. 26–74), the latest research has finally given us a definitive answer. This is very exciting to me because I have been wondering about this since I was a kid when my dad first threw the quandary to me.
Please note that implicit in the very form of the question is the basic premise that this is an issue of woodchuck will rather than woodchuck skill. In the past, many have simply accepted the alternate version of the question in which the basic premise is that this is an issue of woodchuck skill first and an issue of woodchuck will second as evidenced by using the word “could” instead of “would”:
“How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
Dr. Ive Ben Feral addresses this in his recent article concerning woodchuck willingness (“Consciousness, Cognition, and Choice in the Marmota Monax” Animal Kingdom Metaphysical Studies, Vol. 79, No. 16, June 23, 2013, pp. 67–93):
“While some mistakenly assumed woodchucks chucking wood is fundamentally a skill issue, this author consistently holds it is a willingness issue. The chucking-wood skill has been demonstrated in laboratories as well as via woodchuck observations in their natural habitat. Therefore, the correct form of the question remains, ‘How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?’” (p. 70)
Therefore, it is never a question of whether a woodchuck could chuck wood but rather, would a woodchuck chuck wood? We already know a woodchuck could chuck wood. What we genuinely have been in the dark about is whether a woodchuck would choose to chuck wood.
Dr. Anita Beeghogg has settled that issue. Her studies give us an overwhelmingly positive collection of evidence that woodchucks will chuck wood when given the opportunity (“Chucking Wood Willingness” Zoological Studies, Vol. 274, No. 2, January 12, 2014, pp. 114–157):
“In summary, 98.3% of the experimental group clearly demonstrated a willingness to chuck wood. As previously explained, this chucking-wood willingness is present even when a variety of competing interests are manifested in the woodchuck’s immediate environment.” (p. 154)
In fairness, a small minority of scientists have taken exception to Beeghogg’s work, questioning the efficacy and validity of some of her experimental techniques. (See for example, Sheeza Phatrat, “Experimental Design Flaws Associated with Marmota Monax Studies” Animal Laboratory Practices and Design Journal, Vol. 82, No. 3, March 2014, pp. 34–41.)
Although Beeghogg acknowledges the minority view, she affirms various smaller scale studies and anecdotal reports exist that align with her conclusions. Furthermore, the general scientific community largely agrees that it is Beeghogg’s work that has settled the question scientifically, philosophically, practically, and permanently. In her pioneering conclusion, Beeghogg provides the final, definitive answer firmly ensconced within the premise of the woodchuck’s free will:
“A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood.” (p. 157)
This is a thrilling milestone in animal science as well as in childhood development. Never again will anyone have to wonder about the answer to this question that has baffled the generations. Never again will a child have to be distracted by these mind-numbing questions about woodchucks when so many more important questions demand their time. Never again will any woodchuck have to be subjected to needless scrutiny about its wood-chucking activities.
Truly, this is a great time to be alive for our children, scientists, and woodchucks!