This article is from
Creation 46(2):52–53, April 2024

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No true Scotsman and reification fallacies

Logical fallacies: How to spot and refute them


But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Illustration: © Koctia | Envato Elementno-true-scotman

No True Scotsman

Take the following dialogue:

A: All Scotsmen like haggis.

B: But my friend Angus McTavish, born and bred in Edinburgh, dislikes haggis.

A: But no true Scotsman dislikes haggis.

The above, and arguments like it, commit the No True Scotsman fallacy. The general form is:

A: Makes a general statement about a group that involves a non-essential characteristic.

B: Finds a counter-example. That is, a member of that group—by all reasonable definitions—who lacks that characteristic.

A: That person can’t be a true member of a group.

The fallacy is an arbitrary re-definition of the meaning of a group. It is just an assertion that all group members must have this characteristic. It is a rhetorical trick, using words like true (or real, genuine, authentic, etc.) to exclude exceptions by decree.

One good example of the fallacy could be called the No True Scientist fallacy. That is:

A: No true scientist believes in biblical creation or doubts ‘goo-to-you’ evolution.

B: Not so. Prof. X is a scientist by any normal criterion, with an earned Ph.D. in biology, a world expert in his field with 221 refereed scientific publications and 15 patents. He believes in biblical creation and is skeptical of evolution.

A: As I said, no true scientist doubts evolution!

Sometimes such arguments are only marginally fallacious. E.g., christophobes raise the issue of religious wars. A response like “No true Christian would kill innocent people” borders on the No True Scotsman fallacy. Unfortunately, Christians can do bad things. The Bible itself doesn’t hide the serious sins of its ‘heroes’.

Instead, respond that killing innocent people is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. Conversely, atheistic governments that murdered over 100 million of their own people are acting consistently with atheism. That is, if we were just rearranged pond scum, then there is no ultimate foundation for ethics and morality. (See also creation.com/bad-church.)

No True Scotsman non-fallacy

But what about christophobes who claim Hitler was a Christian? We can certainly answer that he was not. He often lied in public about it, like he lied about a multitude of things. However, privately, he was contemptuous of a religion that was both Jewish and compassionate to the weak. Indeed, Hitler did not believe Jesus was divine, the second person of the Trinity, born of a virgin, died to save humanity, or rose from the dead. He even denied Jesus was Jewish (of course) and denied a personal afterlife. In other words, he denied all essential Christian doctrines.

Compare it with a person who claims to be a Scotsman, but was neither born nor lived in Scotland, nor has any Scottish ancestry. In fact, he lacks even the slightest interest in Scots history, culture, or language, and has never been to Scotland. Saying this person is a Scotsman on his say-so is akin to claiming Hitler was a Christian. (See also creation.com/hitler-religion.)

Reification fallacy

Reification (or concretism) occurs when an abstract concept is treated as real. It is widely used as a figure of speech in ordinary language and literature—including in the Bible. But the reification fallacy occurs when people forget that it’s figurative language. Instead, they argue as if the abstraction were a concrete entity with an independent existence that can do things.

For example, many scientific papers about amazing designs in creatures claim that ‘Nature’ designed this feature. Or else, ‘evolution’ figured out how to make this feature so the creature would survive. However, Nature and evolution are just concepts. Neither is a conscious entity that can design or figure out things. Furthermore, explaining how a feature has an advantage in its completed form doesn’t explain how ‘evolution’ could have designed it.

Another example comes from secular environmentalists claiming we should not ‘make war against Mother Nature.’ But ‘Mother Nature’ is not a real being. Certainly not one that can be a protagonist in warfare. And a secular opponent of environmentalism could continue the reification fallacy:

“Mother Nature started this war by sending floods, tornadoes, and mosquitoes against us, and now she wants to quit when she’s losing?”

The secular worldview can’t determine which approach is right. But the biblical view is that God gave man benevolent dominion over an originally “very good” creation (Genesis 1:26–31). However, because of man’s sin, creation is cursed (Genesis 3, Romans 8).

Another reification fallacy is: ‘Science says evolution is true.’ But science is an abstraction, one way to analyze the natural world. Science per se doesn’t ‘say’ anything; only scientists do. (Also, most scientists agree that the scientific method is incapable of proof; only disproof.)

Similarly, ‘The data and facts show creation is wrong’ is a reification fallacy. Data and facts don’t ‘show’ anything or ‘speak for themselves’. Rather, they are always interpreted within a theory or worldview. Even opposing theories can often explain the same set of data or facts.

Natural selection?

Like the No True Scotsman fallacy, there are borderline cases with the reification fallacy. For example, the concept of natural selection is a reification but not necessarily a fallacy. Evolution’s founders, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, insisted that the term ‘natural selection’ was not intended to be taken literally. They defined it as: creatures best adapted to their environment tend to leave more offspring, and those worst adapted tend to leave none. (Creationists discovered this concept before them.) Darwin and Wallace pointed out that there were many reifications in accepted science. (See also creation.com/cet.)

For example, a hydrophobic molecule repels water, and a hydrophilic molecule attracts water. The terms mean ‘water-fearing’ and ‘water-loving’. But we know full well that molecules have no sentience, so can neither fear nor love anything. And ‘electron affinity’ relates to the amount of energy released when an atom combines with an electron. But ‘affinity’ means a natural liking for something or someone. Hence ‘electron affinity’ is figuratively how strongly an atom ‘likes’ an electron and ‘wants’ to combine with it. But we know that atoms have no minds to like (or dislike) anything.

However, evolutionists too often do commit the reification fallacy with natural selection. E.g., natural selection allegedly ‘selected’ or even ‘made’ a certain creature or feature. But natural selection is just a concept that can’t do what they claim. In any case, it doesn’t even create anything; it culls (eliminates) part of what had already existed in a species’ genome.


The Apostle Paul told us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Paul wants our minds to be like Jesus the Logos. This must include rejecting error, including fallacious arguments.

Helpful Resources

Can We Trust the Gospels?
by Peter J Williams
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Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
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Does Evolution Explain Everything About Life?
by Philip Bell & 10 Ph.D. scientists
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