Want to have better eyesight? Maybe you’ve heard the advice: eat more carrots. They’re rich in beta carotene. Beta carotene is useful for producing some other chemicals in the body which are known to be necessary for good eye health.
There’s a problem with this little fact, though. It isn’t quite true. A total lack of these chemicals in the womb and in early childhood can interfere with eye development, but eating a few extra carrots (or a whole bushel) as a teen or an adult will do nothing to make you see better—except maybe stave off cataracts.
Why does everybody seem to think this is true? Blame the British!
During the World War II, the British secretly developed a system you’ve heard of: “Airborne Interception Radar.” Thanks to this new technology, they knew when and where German Bombers were coming. The British wanted to hold on to this advantage as long as possible, so it was imperative that the Germans not find out about it, lest they destroy it or find a way to duplicate it. The British came up with a plan: when their defensive fighter pilots suddenly had much more success on their patrols because of radar, they announced to the news their scientific breakthrough that a diet full of carrots gave British pilots exceptional night vision and the edge over the Germans. Their campaign of deception worked so well that it became difficult to keep carrots in stock because the people were so eager to eat them to get this super-vision. You can read the whole story over at Snopes.
It has been over half a century since the British invented this story, but most of us have heard someone tell us to eat our carrots if we want to see better. We tend not to let little things like facts get in the way of a good story.
Here’s the lesson: just because you’ve heard something a thousand times doesn’t mean it is true. Goebbels, Nazi director of propaganda, said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Remember this warning when you forward an email or tell a story about a friend. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20)