Are “Acts of God” Disappearing?


Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth. In 1903, an unprecedented flood struck Kansas,
wreaking havoc on homes, farmland, infrastructure, and an entire trainload of butter. The creamery sued the rail company for its
lost cargo, but the railroad argued that they shouldn’t be responsible, since the flood
had been completely out of their control. The court agreed, ruling that the flood had
been an “act of god.” Courts around the world have actually been
using the term since the 1500’s to describe unprecedented events that seem to come out
of nowhere. Today, you’ll see “acts of god” mentioned
in contracts, insurance policies, and a few US environmental laws. And, like in the butter case, you might hear
a lawyer milking the term as a defense in court. To use the “act of god” defense, you don’t
have to prove that a god actually caused the event, you just have to prove two things:
one, that taking reasonable precautions couldn’t have prevented the damage, and two, that the
damage was caused by a natural force with no human influence. But it’s getting harder and harder to meet
these criteria, starting with the reasonable precautions. Thanks to improving technology and scientific
knowledge, we’re increasingly able to predict the size, scope, and path of destructive events,
which raises the bar for what kind of “reasonable precautions” might be required to stave
off damage. For instance, back in 1903, the railway had
put the butter car on what seemed like high enough ground to keep it safe, but they had
little way of knowing how severe the flood would be. Today, with a lot more flood knowledge, they’d
have to better prepare the butter for the act of god defense to stick. And the second criteria is also harder to
meet because we’re finding that an increasing number of natural disasters do have human
fingerprints on them. For instance, human activities have led to
the warming and rising of the ocean, which almost certainly intensified Hurricane Sandy
in 2012 and likely exacerbated Europe’s 2015 heat wave. In fact, scientists estimate that some of
Sandy’s catastrophic effects – like the flooding of vital transit tunnels, which added
more than ten billion dollars of damage – might not have happened without the effects of human
activity. Since natural events like floods, droughts,
and wildfires are happening more often and doing more damage than they used to, we may
actually be seeing more Act of God cases pop up in court in the future. But because we’re becoming butter…I mean…better
at predicting those events – and recognizing our own contributions to them – the success
of the act of god defense may soon be relegated fully to the margarines. Hey there! 2017 has been the best year for MinuteEarth
so far. We made more videos than ever for more viewers
than ever. And on July 20th, you guys combined to watch
the most MinuteEarth content ever seen in one day – you watched about 4 and a half
years’ worth of our videos!! Whether you’re a brand-new viewer or someone
who’s been tuning in since the very beginning, we just want to say thank you for joining
us! And to our Patreon patrons and YouTube Sponsors,
thanks for making *us* possible! We’d love to hear from all our viewers – what
were some of your favorite MinuteEarth moments of the year? What would you like to see more of – or less
of – next year? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter
or Facebook – and thanks for watching!

100 thoughts on “Are “Acts of God” Disappearing?

  1. We hope this video churned up some interesting thoughts for you!

    So tell us – what were your favorite MinuteEarth videos this year? What do you want to see (or not see!) next year?

  2. so eventually, the act of god, is just the butter-fly effect of human.

  3. I can’t believe so many people watched minute earth on my birthday!

  4. You can't get through an entire video without saying global warming a few times can you?

  5. The biggest greenhouse gases contributor is the cows we eat, NOT machineries!

  6. I started to watch minute earth videos last year ????

  7. The blue bus ? when it was picked up by hot air balloons ? it looked
    Like the battle bus from fortnite

  8. Is America, & maybe the rest of the world, entering its own Gekokujō period?
    Gekokujō means “The Weak Dominating the Strong”/“The Strong being Dominated by the Weak”.
    In today’s context(s), Professionals with their Higher Education Degrees are failing those who aren’t Professionals & aren’t experts in those specific fields. Health Professionals publishing papers while under the influences of becoming rich & famous (the “Vaccines causes Autism” myth) & before we even had Trump & Obama, the President was a White Career Politician. I’ve even had my own experiences with the failings of Special Needs Services, especially when our lives were endangered through negligence, and I’m currently on a Committee with the Department of Human Services to improve these services.

  9. i hope you do more on the sniance particuarlly gentics of animals 🙂 btw i've loved your vids since i found them in the recommed spot of a vsauce vides

  10. I would like some more Biology of animals like gender differences and how some animals have specialized genders for different things! I love your videos I watch everyone of them!❤️ Love from Sweden!

  11. 2018 might be better for you guys MinuteEarth.. and btw I like your vids :3

  12. rolling on butter can somebody give me some butterflies or do you not have any?

  13. Man watching this video curding point in my life. This was a dairy big deal for me. It made me a butter man.

  14. With each new God of War there fewer gods, so it's only logical they will soon go extinct and there will be no more acts of gods.

  15. Minuteearth: butter i mean better
    Me: HUH I DONT GET THE PUNS

  16. 0:45 I mean technically to prove that something is an act of God, you'll need to prove first that God exists, or even define what counts as a "god"

  17. This is actually really bad when you think legally. An “act of god” defense is really important in court.

  18. and the summer after this video was posted, in 2018 we had one of the dryest years since '76, go figure

  19. I loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove you

  20. I somehow doubt this defence will start to vanish – that would make plenty of ironclad claims against the likes of Exxon Mobil or Kinder Morgan, and it seems the one permanent law is that companies like them always win 🙁

  21. If I read a contract and it said act of God I wouldn't sign it because I don't believe in god

  22. And they are so much my other house phone my phone needs to be home I'll stop buy mom pap dog grandmother

  23. And they don't want her to talk with my phone in a few thanks 2017 dollars and miss thing here with me and hay day at

  24. Lol omg that's to the city tomm love u doing smokeing again huh what she wants to be freind s with u guys still going to the city to julia mana he r you and miss thing mom pap

  25. act of god is how nature forces coming for nowhere are called, to use this term appropriately
    1. it has to be an disaster that cause damages impossible to be avoided
    -but with the technology advance, almost all this damage can be avoided
    2. as i said, the disaster has to be something inevitable , that humans have no control
    but actually was revelead that humans cause too much impact on the enviromnent

  26. 1:50 the hurricane that made landfall in New Jersey, now the name is replaced with Sara, right?

  27. Why not just call it an act of nature instead of an act of god? Its more accurate

  28. Anyone else notice there are three people listed with Reich as their last name? Wierd coincidence

  29. This presupposes you would be able to sue the entire human race, the railroad can not be held at fault for the damage being caused by global warming any more than you would be held accountable for an accident infront of your house because your house was painted green and the driver decided to look at your house instead of the road. I don't ever see global warming being a successful counter to act of god, because at that point you have to say whos liable for damage. Surely the train company can't be to blame, they have little to no control over what the entire human race does, and good luck sueing the human race. Its hard to find a jury of your peers when literally everyone including you(the plaintiff) and the judge are the defendants.

  30. I'd like to see this defense go away. It's used as an excuse to not maintain the trees that fall on my house. Although, I'm guessing that this explains why so many people specifically deny that humans are responsible for climate change. Admitting it means no more act of God defense.

  31. Hey, that’s the same reasoning behind locking up women who have stillbirths. The courts will argue that the stillbirth could have been prevented, and that the mother’s behavior is the possible cause.

    There are already women sitting in prison for this, in states where the unborn have been granted “personhood.”

  32. You wouldn't be able to make the rail company pay out because "global warming" unless you were able to prove the RR company is THE direct cause of global warming. The human clause is in there for liability. If a human caused it, the defendant or otherwise, they are charged instead of declaring "Act of God". But because you can't sue "the world" the Act of God defense can and likely still will be successfully used for these cases.

  33. You seem to be forgetting about avalanches, tornados, lightning damage, and sink holes? How are those related to human activity?

  34. An act of god isn't real it should be called an act of nature not some god since there is no scientific proof that gods exist

  35. You dont know if acts of god are disappearing.Neither do you know if god is disappearing.NOONE OR NOTHING CAN JUST BEAT GOD!Cuz he is the creator of everything.Dot on the answear.

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