Reification – a fallacy I hadn’t seen before

It’s always great to learn something new, and this one is new to me…

When debating in one of those groups I’m in, someone presented a post where they asked atheists to show them where the physical ego or super-ego is. He also stated that he would ignore impolite answers or deflection, and ended off with a smug, “Good luck”.

Here, I found it:

Reification

As so often happens in these debates, he did not state what his actual argument was. They often either do that or imply but don’t state their premise. But today, I learned something while debating the idiot, and that makes me happy.

It’s easy to deconstruct his thinking (or lack of thinking, to be more precise):

  1. He assumes the existence of a spirit or soul.
  2. He assumes an afterlife. (Related to the first assumption. How much of religious belief is grounded in the fear of death, and thus the denial of our own mortality?)
  3. He assumes creation.
  4. He assumes we and the entire universe was created by this creator, the one of his religious indoctrination of course.
  5. He assumes that this creator expects us to worship it. (Why? Surely there is no reason for this other than blind acceptance of what you were taught. Even if there was a creator, there would be no reason for it to demand worship.)
  6. He assumes that after we die, we go to the variation of paradise claimed to exist by his particular religion, unless we disbelieve in or fail to worship the alleged creator, in which case we go to this particular religion’s variation of hell.
  7. He assumes that the brain is not the source of our thoughts, ego, and so on… that the identity, the consciousness, exists outside of the brain, and that the brain is simply something that receives signals from the controlling soul or spirit. (This is a testable claim of course, and has never been proven to be true.)
  8. He assumes then that the identity, the ego, and so on, are concrete, physical things, not abstract things. He attempts to phrase his argument such that we are not “allowed” to mention the brain, thus excluding the correct answer because he doesn’t believe it and doesn’t want to read any pesky facts.
  9. Lastly, he assumes that because atheists cannot point out those abstract things in the physical world, it makes all the other assumptions true. (This can also be phrased as, “You can’t prove my god doesn’t exist; therefore it does” to make the argument from ignorance more obvious.)

Obviously the last assumption is just an argument from ignorance, and there’s also a false dilemma in there somewhere when he assumes that disproving something else would make his god the only alternative, but I’m not interested in pointing out all the fallacies today. What I had never seen before was the treatment of abstractions as concrete objects (point 8 above). And that’s the reification fallacy.

As a programmer, I work with abstractions all the time. It’s a huge part of what I do. In fact, I consider myself lucky in that my greatest asset, in my opinion, is that I learn new abstract concepts easily. While I struggle to learn something that requires learning a lot of data, I grasp anything that’s abstract really quickly. I’m not boasting – it’s just something I learned about myself years ago, and I think it’s what makes me good at what I do.

How anyone can assume that abstractions exist as concrete objects is beyond me. Of course such a person can’t be shown reason in a debate – such people ignore everything that contradict their preconceptions. But it seems like a bizarre logical error to make. Interesting though…

What’s also highly amusing is that people like the one who posted that question (of which he was certain he knew the answer), can be so smug in their ignorance. It’s bad enough when someone is condescending towards people, but to be condescending from a perceived position of superiority, when you are actually the one who is ignorant and most likely less intelligent than those to whom you condescend… Well, that’s just fucking sad. Yet another fine example of Dunning-Kruger.

Plus of course, he asked for no deflection… That’s pretty funny too when the real subject of the debate should be your claim that a god exists, and your entire argument avoids the issue.


I wonder if the theists who partake in these debates are not the ones who can ever really be ambassadors of their religion? They don’t even understand it. They don’t understand what faith is. They don’t get that faith by definition is belief despite a lack of evidence, and that an inherently unfalsifiable position cannot be defended by logic. They then try to use logic, and cannot succeed but produce fallacy-ridden nonsense like the arguments I’ve been reading. Thus the clever theists never debate. Only the idiots do. In fact, the more elaborately phrased arguments are always the same arguments used by people like the one in my example today, where language, rhetoric and syntactic complexity become a smokescreen to hide the dubious logic.

Rest assured, if you’re a theist and you debate atheists, you’re probably an idiot. And I say that with all due respect.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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2 Responses to Reification – a fallacy I hadn’t seen before

  1. bbnewsab says:

    You are so right, Jerome, when you write: “Thus the clever theists never debate. Only the idiots do.”

    But maybe you are a bit too categorical. I’d prefer “avoid debating”. Instead of “never debate”.

    Anyhow, it’s almost the same.

    It’s easy to understand why clever theists avoid debating. They do have silly arguments. And I suspect they know their arguments are full of bullshit, but they will never admit it. So they have to lie to themselves to be able to continue believing in that cognitive crap.

    Here in Sweden I’ve heard of some – or rather many – priests/pastors who have lost their faith. But they can’t leave their “job” because they need the money and want to continue being respected by people in their environment. It’s the same with woo people like psychics and channeling mediums. Many of them seem to do it for the money. It’s a way of living, sort of. By lying to oneself in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and so on. .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. notabilia says:

    Great last paragraph about the essential idiocy of the theist line. Boy, does it get tiring to observe all over the world, and to see such illogical nonsense continue to dominate our US culture is horrifying. If you keep fighting it here in wordland, you are doing the world a lot of good. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

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