Reification Fallacy

We often abstract complicated things into simpler models by removing unimportant and superfluous details so that we can focus on the aspects of greater importance. The abstraction of real things into models makes it possible and easier to work with. But they are still models and do not possess every single attribute of the real things they represent.

Flat-Earthers often commit the reification fallacy, where they treat models as if they are the real things and attack the tiniest discrepancy to discredit science. However, a model is not reality; it can never perfectly represent an actual thing.

  • In flight-dynamics, sometimes we can afford to assume Earth is flat for simplicity. Concluding the Earth is flat from the model is a reification fallacy.
  • A physical or drawn model of an eclipse is designed to show the position of the bodies relative to each other. It cannot explain every aspect of an eclipse, like the sizes and distances. Concluding that we don’t understand eclipse from the fact that the model was made not to scale is a reification fallacy.
  • In mechanics, sometimes we can afford to ignore drag for rigid objects. Disregarding the limitation of the model and asserting it must apply to all other cases is a reification fallacy.

In every model, we can always find an attribute that is different from the real thing. Attacking such a quality to discredit the model or our understanding about the something it represents is the reification fallacy.

As a side note, some flat-Earthers discovered there is such a thing as the reification fallacy, which then they use to dismiss all kinds of models. It was merely a misunderstanding about the reification fallacy. A model allows us to explain some, limited aspects of the real thing. A reification fallacy occurs when someone uses the model to describe an element from the real thing which is not represented in the model.

Flat Earth itself is also a model, of which they won’t attempt to dismiss. A reification fallacy occurs if someone tries to disprove a flat Earth using the fact that there are mountains. Such an argument is fallacious despite the correct conclusion.