Friday, October 10, 2014

Dancing Pigeons

B.F. Skinner did a now-famous experiment on pigeons and their reactions to randomness. He deprived pigeons of food for a while, then placed them in cages with a system where a food pellet would be delivered at regular intervals. There was nothing the pigeon could do to control the food supply.

As time went on, the pigeons seemed to remember what they had done just before the food was delivered. Being hungry, they wanted to speed up the process, so they would repeat what they had done just before they got food. Next time a pellet dropped, they would again try to replicate what they had done just before it arrived.  

Before long, pigeons were turning in circles, stepping from foot to foot, tossing or bobbing their heads - all the while perceiving that their actions "caused" the food to drop. Is it as if the pigeons' prayers had caused the answers they desired to come to pass? 

Just like a pigeon, I wanted the illusion of control in my life. Prayer provided just such an illusion. "Prayer is the hand of faith" that moves the heart of God. Oh, what power I had! How important my petty problems were that the God of the universe would take time to listen to me! How good that made me feel! I was important. I had value. I was God's child. 

I was as deluded as those pigeons.

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