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Transcript of the March 10, 2004 "Coast to Coast AM" Radio Show

Table of Contents
What Color is Mars? The Green Planet? The Glass Worm
Face the Face City Slicker The White Bunny
Bizarre Image Analysis Say What? (Updated March 24, 2004) Hoagland's Credentials
NEW! (March 13, 2004) Some fallout: Hoagland discusses these pages on C2C
Links of Interest

On the evening of March 10, 2004, Richard Hoagland was the guest for the first hour of the "Coast to Coast AM" radio show. Hoagland and host George Noory spent the bulk of the time talking about Hoagland's latest (mistaken) claims that NASA destroyed a martian fossil.

However, not unexpectedly, they spent a few minutes talking about the pages I wrote here about Hoagland's claims. Also not unexpectedly, there was quite a bit of misinformation in the conversation.

Below is a transcript of the interview. The initial transcript was made by a Bad Reader who wishes to remain anonymous (he doesn't want to be pestered by people seeing his name on my page), but I also made a tape of the show and checked the transcript; it was very accurate, and I made only very minor corrections. I take responsibility for any transcription errors. In the transcript, some of the "ums" and other such noises were removed for clarity, and some were left in if they add emphasis. The conversation between Noory and Hoagland is in black, and my comments on what they are saying are in red italics to make them easy to spot.

Introduction: George Noory starts off introducing Hoagland, and congratulating him on his most recent page ( about supposed fossils in the rover image.

Richard Hoagland: Well, we've been getting some positive feedback; we've also been getting some very negative feedback and I want to go into that for a minute. There is an unprecedented assault against 'Enterprise' and what we're trying to do tonight.

This "assault" is hardly unprecedented; there have been many people who have shown where, how, and why Hoagland's claims are wrong. I don't think my pages are necessarily more thorough, or broad, but there are several lines of reasoning on my pages, all in one place instead of scattered over the web.

George Noory: The Enterprise under attack?!?

Hoagland: Yep. And, I take this as a positive sign, because if we weren't making waves somewhere, someone somewhere would not be worried. We have had a major approach by, they want to do a personal piece on me, I found out a little while ago. They want pictures from our website, they want to address, apparently, some of the nonsense that has been published on other websites, including, stuff by Phil Plait. Where is the status of our so-called 'debate' with Dr. Plait?

Noory: The status of that, was, we were to get him, and you, a series of potential questions, and an outline.

Hoagland: That's what he wants?

Noory: Yes.

George is mistaken. It is not what I want. A producer from "Coast to Coast" called me and asked if I wanted to debate Hoagland on the air. We went back and forth on it for a while, because I was very hesitant. I have little desire to debate someone like Hoagland. Not because he's right, which I think I show clearly on these pages. It's because he has a lot of experience talking about his nonsense, and is very familiar with it. I, on the other hand, am not as intimately familiar with all the nitpicky details of his arguments.

I have found that when debating a pseudoscientist or conspiracy theorist, they ignore huge gaping holes in their logic, and instead focus on small, niggling pieces that the debunker may not be familiar with. This way, they can distract the listener from the real problems in their theory, and make it sound like they win. I have seen this with the Moon Hoax, with Planet X, with creationists, and you-name-it.

A radio debate is not a debate in the real sense, it's more of an argument, and whoever is more emotionally persuasive tends to "win". Also, no matter what happens, Hoagland will claim victory, even if I smash his claims into atom-sized pieces. I'll note that Nancy Lieder did exactly that after I trounced her in a debate on "Coast to Coast".

So the producer (whom I like, I should note) went on to try to persuade me. She asked if it would help if we had rigidly defined topics for the debate, which would avoid getting bogged down in details. I thought that would be better, but I still think Hoagland would stray off-topic, using details to confuse the issue. This happens quite a bit on his website, so I expect it would in a debate as well. In the end, I never agreed to a debate. I never said I wouldn't, thinking back on it, but I never said I would. Either way, the conversation between Noory and Hoagland is not correct. I think Noory was simply mistaken; I have talked with him at length and I think he is an honest man.

Hoagland: Well, I have no... restrictions whatsoever.

Noory: I know you don't!

Hoagland: So he wants an outline. He has made some pretty outrageous claims on his website, but obviously he's stalling, 'cause he doesn't want to confront us face-to-face, one-on-one --

This sounds awfully familiar to me. Nancy Lieder said exactly the same thing before our debate. I am not stalling; I have given above the reasons I don't want to debate Hoagland.

Noory: Okay, but as far as that's concerned, because we have not addressed those claims on "Coast", I don't really want to address them tonight.

Hoagland: No, I don't either, but what what I'm doing, is giving some background --

Noory: Alright.

Hoagland: --because...the more noise we make -- and one of the questions that was asked tonight in this email from, is 'How many, followers we have?'

Noory: Well you have a lot!

Hoagland: George, we don't have 'followers.' We have intelligent people who can read, and make their own decisions. I can't put a gun to anybody's head. The web is the purest example of 'free enterprise' - pun intended - ever invented. People are able to select, to read, to critique, to go away, to never come back -- nobody commands anyone to appear, at a particular website.

Hoagland is correct in this case. However, I'll note he never links to anyone who disagrees with him on his site. I do that as a matter of course when debunking pseudoscience. I want people to see the other side, and to get both the pseudoscience claim and the scientific claim.

Noory: Well don't you think that the fact that wants to do a story on you is positive?

Hoagland: No.

Noory: WHY??

Hoagland: Because of the slant of the questions that they're already indicating.

Well, the slant is Hoagland's assumption, but he has no proof of it. I happen to know the person who called him. Rob Roy Britt is a long-time journalist for, and I know him to be scrupulously honest and fair in his reporting. He called me to follow-up on some questions, and told me he will simply relay the information that both Hoagland and I have on our websites. See for yourself.

Noory (incredulously): Well-- since when have you ever backed down from that!?

Hoagland: Oh I haven't - I'm not backing down, in fact I've told him when to call, tomorrow morning! I had an earlier piece this week from one of the cable news networks [correcting himself] - not, not news - one of the cable outlets called Tech TV, that wanted me to drop everything and rush downtown here, and do a twenty, or thirty minute piece - which I did. I wound-up watching it that night, and they used two questions out of context, it was a total 'hit piece!'' --a TOTAL 'hit piece!'

Pbbbt. Welcome to my world. Many times, when I do interviews for newspapers or on TV, they give far more time to the conpiracy theorist/pseudoscientist than to the side of reason. If anything, most articles are slanted toward the nonsense because it sells better, and reporters like to give "both sides" of an issue, even when there's really only one side. This is not an issue of politics or philosophy, where intelligent people can come down on two sides of an issue; the issues Hoagland raises are scientific, where there are right and wrong conclusions to be made.

Hoagland [continued]: So I'm watching this ratcheting up. And I'm saying, that someone out there, is worried that stories like the uh... the uh... Crinoid Story that we're going to talk about momentarily, and other things that we've been putting on the site, such as the artifacts that Spirit has been imaging, and support for the tidal model - and things like that-- that all of this is having some kind of accumulative effect. And this -- I mean, you got the email.. ah.. several weeks ago from Plait, about 'Hoagland's nonsense?

Noory: Mhmm [yes]

No he didn't. I never sent an email to Noory about my debunking pages. Hoagland said this the last time he was on the program with Noory, and he was wrong there too. I wrote the debunking pages, and did a foolish thing: I had them on my site, unlinked, figuring no one would see them. But one way or another word got out, and Hoagland was able to see my preliminary pages, most of which were little more than notes, links, and quotations from other sites I had cut-and-pasted for later use. I did send out an email about them, but only to scientists I was asking for advice on certain issues. In those emails, I made it very clear the pages were not ready to be made public. So this is yet another very misleading statement by Hoagland.

Hoagland: This was the beginning of the 'campaign'! Anytime you see politically, a series of negative ads... which reminds one of the presidential race right now -- they're going hard negative - and, we have eight months left until the election!

Hoagland's opinion of this is not my own. There is no "campaign". I simply had had enough of hearing his silly claims, and wrote pages about them. The article started because Rob Roy Britt saw my pages, and wanted to write an article about all this. That's it. Hardly a "campaign".

Noory: I know. But I gotta tell you Richard, I like you - and you know that, [but] I also like Philip Plait! You know, I play the role of the referee here, and ah... you know--

Hoagland: Well I have no question you will be an honest referee.

Noory: Absolutely!

I agree.

Hoagland: But what I want you to not agree to, is a set of pre-ordained questions that he can then carefully skate through, I want this to be an unrehearsed, no-holds-barred -- he comes on, I come on, and we have no idea what you're going to ask. You simply let him ask questions, I ask questions, then you ask questions.

As I pointed out before, a "debate" set up that way is very much to the pseudoscientist's advantage. I am not sure why he wants to approach it that way, but if we did restrict a debate to a narrow set of his claims, then it would be much more fair to both of us.

Noory: Well before anybody agrees to anything, both you, and Phil will know the ground rules, and if they're not acceptable to either one of you, it won't happen!

Hoagland: Well I don't think we ought to have 'pre-ordained questions', and I--

Noory: Oh, no, no, not like that! But he wants to know, where we're headed with this. If we're going to have a debate, what are we going to have a debate with? So -- we aren't at the stage yet--

Hoagland: Well one of the things he's done on his website is engage in personal, anti-Hoagland attacks! Personal attacks!

No I haven't. I address his claims. I never call him names (other than a pseudoscientist), I never talk about his motives. I do question his credentials, but these are credentials he himself uses. I do use strong language when describing his claims ("nonsense", "garbage", and the like) but I call 'em like I see 'em. Those are attacks, to be sure, but attacks on his arguments, not on him. I talk about this specifically on the credentials page.

Also, ironically, he and Michael Bara constantly engage in personal attacks, some of them quite vicious, on his website. He attacks scientists by name, and even compared two men to Hitler and Goebbels! Again, that is linked on the credentials page.

Noory: Well that's between you and him to address, when this debate occurs.

Hoagland: I would like to, frankly, talk about data. About evidence. About processes, about NASA being accountable to the American people. To the tax payer. But on his website, he's turned it very personal --

Again, no I didn't.

Noory [interrupting]: I don't think, that if you're talking to Philip Plait on this program, you're going to be able to 'bite your lip' and not say anything to him. Come on now!

Hoagland [laughs]: Well you mean, to take it to that level? Of course not! I have nothing against Phil! I think he is a shill for people behind him! I don't think he is acting as his own agent, because I'm watching the orchestration, George. I 'watch the politics', as you know, and we're 'touching a nerve' somewhere, so there's a 'Let's Get Hoagland' thing going on out there, and as John Kerry says, 'Bring it on!'

First, he has nothing against me? That doesn't sound like it. Second, he has zero evidence for there being anyone "behind" me. He can't, because there isn't. Everything I write is on my own. In fact, several people, including some NASA scientists, didn't want me to write anything about Hoagland at all! Their argument is that all he cares about is publicity, and I am helping give it to him. That may or may not be true, but I learned from the Moon Hoax fiasco that pseudoscience like this is like a virus; at low levels it's no big deal, but if it grows, it can be bad. I don't think Hoagland's influence is anywhere near the level of someone like Nancy Lieder or the Moon Hoax, but the point is to make sure that people can see through his arguments so that he doesn't get that big.

He may see this statement (and use it) as a way to try to show that I am trying to suppress him. That is not the case. I state on my pages and I restate it here that he has a right to say what he wants no matter how inaccurate it may be (until it becomes fraud). I don't want to suppress anyone; quite the opposite: I want people to read his stuff. I also want them to read mine, to see exactly why Hoagland is wrong. Only when people have all the information can they make an informed decision.

Noory: Well like I said: Since when has that stopped you?

Hoagland [light chuckle]: NEVER!

They then go on to discuss Hoagland's latest "research".

I'll note that his eagerness for a debate is puzzling, since he has refused to be debated in the past (Ralph Greenberg, a mathematician, has offered to debate Hoagland many times, and Hoagland declined). I am not sure why he wants to debate now. Maybe he feels he can crush me. Maybe he honestly believes what he says, and wants to show he is right. I don't know. It doesn't really matter to me what his motivations are!

I feel that the points I have made on my webpages stand by themselves. People who read them will get the real scoop on Hoagland's claims, and they can make up their own minds. While a debate with him on the air would bring lots of people to both our websites, I also think that debating him on the air would lead to a serious confusion of the real, broader issues in his arguments. Those issues are that he bases his claims on bad logic, incorrect data, incorrect data processing, the incorrect interpretation of data, and misleading use of logic. Those are the real issue, and those are what I show on my own pages.

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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