Oooooh, I hate it when math and physics dudes think they can solve social-science problems by playing around with toy models.

Here’s a particularly stupid example:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

As a blog commenter wrote: Sure, this theory is pretty dumb, but if they can convince 10% of scientists that they’re right, then a majority of other scientists will have no choice but to believe it too!

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.