Our Sense of Moral Obligation Proves Materialism Is False

by J Warner Wallace

My experience as a homicide detective has given me some insight into the nature of moral culpability and the limits of materialism. Over the years, some of my suspects have claimed they were not responsible for their actions because they suffered some physical condition that was beyond their control. If you’re not familiar with the famous 1979 trial of Dan White, you might want to do a little research. White murdered the mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, and a San Francisco city supervisor named Harvey Milk. When the trial finally took place, White’s attorney claimed that White was not culpable for the murders because he had a physical condition that caused depression, and this condition was aggravated by a recent change in White’s diet. White allegedly modified his diet from healthy food to sugary food, including Hostess brand Twinkies. He claimed these unhealthy foods caused a physical condition that was beyond his control,

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aggravating his depression and causing him to murder Moscone and Milk. The jury actually accepted this explanation and convicted White of manslaughter rather than murder. The public response was quick and violent. People were appropriately outraged by White’s successful effort to minimize his personal responsibility; riots broke out in the city of San Francisco. This defense strategy was widely (and appropriately) panned and resulted in the creation of a label that has since been applied to all such attempts to excuse immoral and illegal behavior on the basis of some physical condition. The “Twinkie Defense” has now become a catch-all term used to describe such efforts…


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