Serge Lang: The Memorial HIV/AIDS Archive

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