The Fallacy of Reification

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 in Logical Fallacies

This is a subcategory of the fallacy of ambiguity and it’s also known as the Bait-and-Switch. This is committed when a person attributes a concrete and often personal characteristic to a conceptual abstraction. Reification is perfectly acceptable in poetry, but should not be used in logical argumentation because it is ambiguous and can obscure important issues. Evolutionists frequently commit this fallacy, particularly with the concepts of nature, evolution, evidence, and science.

Example 1: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature“. Nature is a concept, a name we give to the sum total of the sequence of events in the universe. Nature cannot be “fooled” as if it had a mind.

Example 2: “Even while Joe was home, his job was calling him, luring him back to the office“. Clearly the job was not calling anyone.

Example 3: “Nature selects those individuals who are most fit“. But nature has neither mind nor choice and thus cannot literally select anything.

Example 4: “Evolution figured out how to get around these problems“. But evolution cannot think!

Example 5: “Natural selection guided the development of all the species we see on earth“. Natural selection is a concept; it cannot literally guide anything!

Example 6: “Science is atheistic in its outlook and procedures“. But science has no beliefs about God, or anything else!

Example 7: “The evidences speaks for itself“. Evidence does not actually speak, only people do.

Example 8: “We must interpret Scripture in light of what ‘science’ says“. Science is a conceptual tool and doesn’t actually say anything! Evolutionists may avoid the fallacy of reification by rephrasing their statement as:”Scripture must be interpreted to match the opinion of the majority of scientists“. But this replaces one fallacy with another. It is now the fallacy of appeal to majority or the fallacy of appeal to authority. The faulty appeal is often disguised by its wording; some might say “We must interpret Scripture in light of scientific knowledge“. But what is considered “knowledge” differs from person to person. So they really mean “what is considered scientific knowledge by the majority of scientists“. Again back to the fallacy of appeal to majority the fallacy of appeal to authority.

Example 9: “God has also revealed Himself in nature. Since God cannot lie, the Bible and nature must agree“. Such statements are common among theistic evolutionists and old-earth creationists. Once again we see the fallacy of reification – nature treated as if it were a person that could have a position on a topic. Another problem with this view is a category mismatch: nature is not propositional truth. Nature cannot literally agree with the Bible. It’s really “what the majority of scientists say about nature” that old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists believe we should interpret the Scriptures to match. And we’ve already seen the problems with this view. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about this claim is that it is self-refuting. Suppose we asked an advocate of this view, “How do you know that God has revealed Himself in nature? And how do you know God is self-consistent?” The only rationally objective response he could give is “Well, the Bible says much. Romans 1 teaches that God has revealed Himself to everyone“. But now he is in quite a bind, because only if we take the Bible in a natural way would we conclude that God has revealed Himself in nature. If Romans 1 were not literally true, then there would be no reason to believe that God has actually (literally) revealed Himself in nature. So the view that we should reject a natural reading of the Bible in light of natural revelation presupposes a natural reading of the Bible! It is self-refuting.

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