When it's time to go . . .

The afterlife may be back on the conversation menu at the parties Sara Maitland attends ("Immortal longings grow again", 9 August), but arguments for its possibility remain half-baked. Keen to make room for faith in the unfounded, Maitland falls back on the limits of science, taking comfort in the fact that science has failed to give an "adequate account of the self". But to suggest that this holds out hope for an afterlife is to ignore what science has very successfully given an account of.

The science of consciousness is at an early stage, but few serious students doubt that consciousness is a brain process and that our sense of self is a product of consciousness. The weight of scientific evidence is that when your brain dies, so do you. This is so obvious as to sound trite, but when people like Maitland latch on to what science has so far failed to do, in order to hold out hope for immortal life, it is worth remembering such truisms. The evidence suggests I won't outlive my brain.

Julian Baggini
The Philosophers' Magazine
London N4

This article first appeared in the 23 August 1999 issue of the New Statesman, No Jews on their golf courses