Playing Noah

91 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2007


The biblical story of Noah and the ark has been cited by numerous writers as a justification for the protections contained in the Endangered Species Act. In that story, Genesis reports that God instructed Noah to save two of every species from the flood that would destroy life on earth, and that after doing so God established a covenant with Noah and the animals that were saved. The story has inspired writers and activists to posit a duty to imitate Noah today when we struggle to provide the resources and the will to protect all species, however popular or obscure, from extinction.

This article critiques the lessons of the story of Noah, and broader Christian idea of stewardship, for the current efforts to preserve biodiversity. The article explores the implications of that story and whether it should influence the content of laws addressing biodiversity. The article also considers the difficulty in allocating limited resources among innumerable endangered and threatened species, and whether Noah's example offers any insights into that task.

Keywords: species, environmental, religion, Christianity, Endangered Species Act

Suggested Citation

Nagle, John Copeland, Playing Noah. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 82, p. 1171, 1998; Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 07-12. Available at SSRN:

John Copeland Nagle (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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