Evidence is the Measure of Science, Not Signs

Blog, Environment, Marco Navarro-Genie

In this piece in Huffington Post, Canada’s famous geneticist, David Suzuki, tried his best to connect the recent Alberta floods to fossil fuel consumption.

The attempt goes from fuel consumption, to global warming, to climate change, to flooding rivers.

The title of the piece is very apt:  “Is Alberta Flooding a Sign of Climate Change?”

You will notice that it is a question.

The question is rhetorical since we already know where Dr. Suzuki’s mind is on the issue, but it is significant that it uses the word sign –not evidence.

Evidence is the language of science.

Signs, not so much!

While the word sign, as in an indication that the occurrence of something might be connected to something else, is perfectly usable in science, it cannot substitute the necessity for evidence.

Conversely, “signs” are sometimes used in language that most scientists believe to be at the opposite of science.

For example, for long people in various cultures have believed that the occurrence of natural phenomena are connected to human behaviour.

In such view, natural disasters are manifested signs of punishments or rewards for human action.

In the same vein, they suggest that these phenomena are “signs” of the involvement of a deity or deities in human affairs.

In such cases, the language of signs is comfortably in the realm of myth or in religious revelation.

Nothing Suzuki mentions makes a definitive scientific connection to “climate change” causing the Alberta floods because there is simply no evidence to that effect.

In fact, Suzuki doesn’t event mention data showing that global warming has not occurred for over a decade now, which would make his link from fossil fuels, to warming, to raging rivers in Alberta plainly false.

Instead of speaking the revelatory language of “signs” (which also connects water to aliens in the 2002 motion picture of the same name starring Mel Gibson), Dr. Suzuki could have chosen to examine existing evidence regarding the flooding record of the Bow River.

As the graphic below shows, there has been worse flooding in the area since records are kept, going back to the latter part of the 19th century.

From preliminary results of the 2013 flood, it appears that that the 1932 flood was worse.

Recorded floods on the Bow River at Calgary

Even if one accepts Suzuki’s premise, the levels of fossil fuel consumption in 1932 could not have influenced the climate in southern Alberta.

But fossil fuel consumption most certainly had nothing to do with the flooding of 1870, the worst to have been recorded in the area.

One would be hard pressed to make the case that human action, industry and automobiles provoked the 1870 floods.

This is why the famous geneticist is relegated simply to talk about signs and not evidence.

The evidence clearly points in a different direction than human energy consumption as the cause of flooding in the Bow River Valley during the worst recorded flood.

It wasn’t us! We see in many cultures speaking about signs meaningfully that the language of signs is prophetic.

The biblical prophets get it right.

The recorded evidence shows that Suzuki’s prophecy is incorrect, however.

His tea-leaves reading skills need improvement.