Michael Zimmerman introduced me to the word mumpsimus when he used it in his recent Huffington Post piece to describe Ray Comfort. Michael refers to Anu Garg, who defines the word as “a view stubbornly held in spite of clear evidence that it's wrong; and a person who holds such a view.”

Ray Comfort is misrepresenting scientists he interviewed for an upcoming movie. The video trailer below was shared by P. Z. Myers, who appears in the film and is appalled by the spin that one can already assume will be placed on his words within the movie itself. Because, as someone thoroughly persuaded by the evidence for evolution, there is no way that Ray Comfort could quote him honestly and accurately that would make the opposite case.

How often we find young-earth creationists mocking evolution in ways that they show that they don't even understand what biological evolution is, never mind what the evidence for it is. I have no expectation whatsoever that Ray Comfort's forthcoming movie will be anything other than one mumpsimus after another, offered by a mumpsimus.


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  • spinkham

    Last few seconds made me smile anyway.. The banana-man has a sense of humor at least.

    It also perfectly illustrates the problem: 99.99% of experts all agree with what seems to be a counter-intuitive answer to a person who hasn’t studied the field, precisely because the data leads to that conclusion. That’s the problem with trying to settle complex matters by debate: in that format, the more intuitive answer starts with a huge leg up on a less intuitive answer. The fact that the less intuitive answer might be supported by huge mountains of evidence doesn’t make much difference if you don’t have time to lay out all that evidence to the people.

    That’s why appeals to proper authorities are necessary evils in such situations, and a country that is so distrustful of experts will believe so many more intuitive but wrong things.

    • James F. McGrath

      That is very nicely put. May I quote you in a blog post?

      • spinkham

        Sure, if you want to further subject your readers to my ranting I have no objections. 😉

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    A little background about “mumpsimus” may nuance the definition that you received.

    The story goes that there was a medieval priest who habitually mispronounced part of the liturgy; when he was supposed to say “sumpsimus” (we have taken/consumed), he instead said “mumpsimus,” a non-word. He did this for decades, and one day, another priest visited and informed him of the mistake. But the old priest replied, “For forty years I have said it that way; I will not abandon my venerable old mumpsimus for your new-fangled sumpsimus.” Or words to that effect.

    The term is a favorite among New Testament textual critics who encounter individuals who are determined to adhere to poorly attested readings in the Textus Receptus, instead of adopting readings which have broader and older attestation, especially when the reading in the TR appears to have originated as the result of a simple mistake.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.