The Illusion of Choice

Vaporware: software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed.

I am a software engineer. My current project is integrating two other software systems, both produced by the company for which I work. I write code. It gets tested against design specs. It is not vaporware. It exists now. It has been purchased by and implemented at a few customers. It is undergoing a Software Development Lifecycle and a few versions have been released. Again, not vaporware.

Why would someone buy into vaporware versus available and tested software? Loyalty to a vendor? An anticipation of promised advantages and benefits? An anticipation of a competitive edge? Some of that and other reasons, I am sure.

I loosely compare religion to vaporware. Long-term promises, advance payments. Eventually, is there a product? How would we know?

Cognitive science is yet young but is producing interesting results. More and more “spiritual” or “supernatural” experiences have been replicated in the lab. In fact, the very feeling of being in the “presence of deity” has been replicated. I look forward to future results, further illumination.

So what has this to do with choice?

Religion promises things like blessings, answers to prayer, miracles, external life, families in the hereafter, damnation, purgatory, fire, and brimstone, and the existence of a hereafter itself! Is this real or is it vaporware? How can we tell?

Aside from the advances in cognitive science, what if we performed an experiment? Take, for example, prayer. Does it work?

Let’s evaluate what happens when we pray, what are the potential outcomes. I suggest:

  1. Positive response i.e. request fulfilled
  2. Negative response i.e. request denied
  3. Delayed response i.e. request involves other possibilities, like an opportunity to learn a lesson

I realize, of course, that these outcomes are also serendipitous. The question becomes, how do we know if the answer was from the deity? Does he/she/it leave evidence of his/her/its presence? A fingerprint? Any physical signature?

Or do we assign the source to be a deity in our own minds? Try this experiment (I read about this a couple times somewhere, can’t remember where, using a rock in one example and a milk jug in another). Pray to an object of your choice. Wait for the answer. Does the answer meet the scenario in the three items listed above? Did you have any evidence the object was involved in the answer?

It’s up to you to decide if you wish to try or not. If you do, be honest. I figure many will feel this kind of experiment is blasphemous. I only suggest this to those who feel a modicum of rationality.

Now, how does this tie into the Illusion of Choice?

How can a real choice be made if the choice favors vaporware? There lies the illusion. Is religion anticipating something never to be delivered, rendering null any choice made?

This is your question to be answered on your own, if you will.

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