(1927–2005) was one of the most prolific and influential mathematicians
of the 20th century. At the time of his death, he was emeritus professor
of mathematics at Yale University and a member of the National Academy
of Sciences. He was also a tireless crusader for clear thinking
and holding individuals and institutions accountable for their actions.
Lang is perhaps best-known outside of mathematical circles for his
which documents several of these “trouble-making” crusades, as well
as for his "Three Laws of Sociodynamics":
First Law of Sociodynamics
- The power
structure does what they want, when they want; then they try to
find reasons to justify it.
- If this
does not work, they do what they want, when they want, and then
Law of Sociodynamics
- An establishment
will close ranks behind a member until a point is reached when
closing ranks is about to bring down the entire establishment;
then the establishment will jettison that member with the least
action it deems necessary to preserve the establishment.
Law of Sociodynamics
- It's like
the video games: one can't shoot fast enough."
Lang was often
accused of being "politically motivated," but this would
be a facile judgment. Lang was only political to the extent of exposing
how political bureaucracy and machinations fostered irrational and
unclear thinking, ultimately resulting in poor decisions and policies.
In line with his educational background in physics and philosophy
and with his mathematical life, he championed rigorous classical
standards of evidence and logic, and he held everyone he knew to
these standards — whether by throwing chalk at students, or by throwing
angry letters at bureaucrats and administrators:
especially concerned when people who construct a reality askew from
the outside world have the influence or power to impose their reality
in the classroom, in the media, and in the formulation of policy,
domestic or foreign. I find the situation especially serious when
political opinions are passed off as science, and thereby acquire
even more force." (from the introduction "Background and
Motivation" to Challenges)
his crusades through a technique he called "file-making."
Anthony Liversidge described this technique as follows:
unique strategy, Lang moves against an alleged information polluter
by engaging him or her in correspondence, and building up a large
‘File’ of letters, press clips, Congressional testimony, and similar
documentation on the issue. He may then mail this substantial ‘File’,
which can reach a hundred pages or more, to several hundred academics,
members of the National Academy of Sciences, government officials,
influential journalists and the like. The recipients get an inside
look at the complete details of an affair, the correspondence that
has been written as well as published material, a rounded view not
normally available even to participants. They can see for themselves
the truth of Lang's strictures, and the level of cooperation or
resistance he met with."
last twelve years of his life, Lang developed an energetic and passionate
crusade against irrational and illogical thinking in connection
with HIV and AIDS. He became convinced that the current HIV hypothesis
of AIDS causation was not supported by available evidence, and in
his final years, he became especially vocal about the toxicities
of AIDS drugs. He developed a collection of "files" on
HIV and AIDS, many of which are now maintained at an archive at
the AIDS Wiki.
should provide anyone with time and patience the ability to judge
just how honest and reliable our current institutions have been
in disseminating accurate and useful information on HIV and AIDS.
A few highlights:
- In 1993,
Peter Duesberg wrote Harold
Jaffe at the CDC, posing eight specific questions. Jaffe wrote
a single-page response, addressing almost none of the eight questions
directly, and ending with the faith-based retort "Although
many questions regarding AIDS pathogenesis remain unanswered,
I am convinced that HIV is the etiological agent of AIDS."
- In "Science
By Press Conference," Michael Saag, MD, one of the co-authors
of a 1995 paper that "re-defined" our "understanding"
of HIV pathogenesis, states "I don’t think we know much about
cell dynamics…the jury is still out!"
- In "The
Unreliable Mess in Science," we learn how scientific and
government researchers can’t keep their stories straight regarding
- In the "Chemical
and Engineering News file," a Senior Editor of the Lancet
(a prominent British medical journal) writes on Lancet letterhead,
"No doubt in time Duesberg will be proved wrong."
Einstein Disinvitation" documents how faculty pressures at
a medical school overrode a graduate student vote to invite Duesberg
as a speaker.
- In "The
Daily Cal file," we learn how the readership at UC Berkeley
must be "protected" by the management of this newspaper.
NAS file" documents the cavalier attitude with which Lang’s
submission of a pair of papers on HIV and AIDS to the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences was rejected.
These are just
a few of the many revelations readers will find by patiently reading
through The Serge Lang
Memorial HIV/AIDS Archive.