Substitution rates are known to be variable among genes, chromosomes, species, and lineages due to multifarious biological processes. Here we consider another source of substitution rate variation due to a technical bias associated with gene tree discordance, which has been found to be rampant in genome-wide datasets, often due to incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). This apparent substitution rate variation is caused when substitutions that occur on discordant gene trees are analyzed in the context of a single, fixed species tree. Such substitutions have to be resolved by proposing multiple substitutions on the species tree, and we therefore refer to this phenomenon as “SPILS” (Substitutions Produced by Incomplete Lineage Sorting). We use simulations to demonstrate that SPILS has a larger effect with increasing levels of ILS, and on trees with larger numbers of taxa. Specific branches of the species trees are consistently, but erroneously, inferred to be longer or shorter, and we show that these branches can be predicted based on discordant tree topologies. Moreover, we observe that fixing a species tree topology when performing tests of positive selection increases the false positive rate, particularly for genes whose discordant topologies are most affected by SPILS. Finally, we use data from multiple Drosophila species to show that SPILS can be detected in nature. While the effects of SPILS are modest per gene, it has the potential to affect substitution rate variation whenever high levels of ILS are present, particularly in rapid radiations. The problems outlined here have implications for character mapping of any type of trait, and for any biological process that causes discordance. We discuss possible solutions to these problems, and areas in which they are likely to have caused faulty inferences of convergence and accelerated evolution.