Serge Lang: The Memorial HIV/AIDS Archive

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Serge
Lang

(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
book Challenges
which documents several of these “trouble-making” crusades, as well
as for his "Three Laws of Sociodynamics":

"The
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
    they stonewall.

The Second
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.

The Third
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:

"I am
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)

Lang documented
his crusades through a technique he called "file-making."
Anthony Liversidge described this technique as follows:

"In this
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."

During the
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.

This archive
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
    Kaposi’s sarcoma.
  • 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."
  • "The
    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.
  • "The
    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
.

June
14, 2006

Darin
Brown [send him mail]
received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California,
Santa Barbara in 2004. He maintains the AIDS
Wiki
.

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