“There can be no cherry pie without cherry pions.”
That’s the fallacy. A cherry pion, in case it isn’t obvious, would be an indivisible particle which had an irreducibly cherry quality to it. I wish I could find the internet comment that inspired me here, but I can’t find it. Let me just admit that I didn’t invent the metaphor all on my own (but I did coin the horribly punny title! so there!)
The alternative to the Cherry Pion fallacy is called Emergence. Yes, that’s a word with many uses, not all of them so innocent. But give “emergentists” an innocent-until-proven-guilty verdict, I plead. Many of them are just observing that some concepts aren’t applicable at the finest level of detail, but find targets at higher levels of organization.
Another inspiration for my coinage is Ronald Dworkin’s “morons” in Justice for Hedgehogs. Dworkin wrote:
If there are morons, and morons make moral claims true or false, then we might imagine that morons, like quarks, have colors. An act is forbidden only if there are red morons in the neighborhood, required only if there are green ones, and permitted only if there are yellow ones.
Dworkin’s “morons” are a caricature of a straw man, i.e. an intentionally ridiculous version of some philosophical arguments about ethics. Not that I endorse Dworkin’s solution to the no-“morons” “problem”, mind you. But the caricature of the argument was good for a laugh.