Coming from decorated pilots in the Royal Air Force, one would be intensely compelled to believe the story. So when news came out of London, back in 2000, that penguins were toppling over backwards as Royal Air Force pilots passed overhead, the story gained worldwide exposure.
Word was the penguins would topple over like dominoes, reacting to the aircraft flying overhead, and the story was both humorous and intriguing.
Problem is, the story wasn’t true.
Quite the contrary, penguins apparently are more sensible than earlier believed. Scientists are discovering they respond in much the same way we do. Richard Stone, of the British Antarctic Survey, recently went to study the penguins and found that “not one king penguin fell over when the helicopters came over Antarctic Bay.”
Stone went to the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia to study how the penguins reacted to British Lynx helicopters. He compared the actions of a breeding colony at Antarctic Bay, where Royal Navy aircraft flew over, with another at nearby Possession Bay where planes did not fly over.
Here was his account: “As the aircraft approached, the birds went quiet and stopped calling to each other, and adolescent birds that were not associated with nests began walking away from the noise. Pure animal instinct, really.” He went on to say the birds resumed their normal behavior within minutes, “usually by the time the helicopter was out of audible range.”
So a story, with absolutely no factual basis, circled the earth, literally, and is probably still being told somewhere; yet it isn’t true.
You’d think people would do a better job of checking out the facts.
Sometimes the wrong information can be deadly. Just ask the family of Linda Welch. Dave Ramsey says she had the unfortunate task of nursing her mother through the pain and suffering of dealing with cancer. As the deadly disease destroyed her mother, all Linda could do was sit and watch, doing nothing except to attempt whatever minor comforts she could provide. As the cancer took its toll on her mother, Linda began to be affected by her own fear and sorrow.
Several months later, after developing a persistently severe sore throat, Linda came to believe she had cancer herself. She knew she couldn’t go through what her mother had to endure. So Linda turned a gun on her five-year-old daughter, Crystal, and then shot Steven Jr., only ten, and finally killed herself. Her suicide note revealed deep depression and an absolute fear of cancer.
Linda acted on what she believed to be true. If you would’ve asked her she could’ve given you a passionate response about why this course of action was the only way out.
The horror of it all is that an autopsy revealed Linda had strep throat and the flu, but no cancer.
You’d think people would do a better job of checking out the facts, especially, Christians. Unfortunately, many don’t. And the results, more often than not, are unnecessarily tragic.
Ever wonder how many people quit a church, leave a ministry, small group or end a friendship over someone’s “story?”
Solomon warns in Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
We should be very careful when someone comes to us with a story. Even if they appear to be a credible source, like the Royal Air Force. We should be especially suspicious of stories that come from disgruntled former employees, disenfranchised former friends, disconnected church members, etc.
Why? Because, like an engine in an automobile, usually what’s making all the noise is the defective part that needs to be replaced.
So, the next time someone brings a story to you, here’s a great strategy to follow. Just say, “before you tell me anything … did you hear the one about the falling penguins?”
It wasn’t true.
© 2013. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.