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Article Title

Re-examining Acts of God

Abstract

Applying recent critiques of the construction of nature as distinct from and excluding all that is human, this article examines the concept of an act of God, which exculpates defendants when a disaster is “solely caused” by a “natural” event. The doctrine incorporates a classical separation of the human from the natural—a separation that is now refuted in geography and philosophy. While other areas of law such as patents, food and drug law, and land use policy have begun to acknowledge our changing understandings of human and nature, we have yet to re-examine the acts of god doctrine, which is foundationally built on this classically constructed separation. The neglect is particularly significant in light of the developing modern cultural understanding of climate change and even individual weather events as human-generated. This article suggests that by claiming a pure separation of human and natural, the acts of god doctrine embraces a fiction without indeed admitting it and thereby does damage to public confidence in the law.

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