Friday, August 30, 2013

Science a major draw at Decatur Book Festival

Many people would say that we are on the brink of using brain imaging to diagnose mental illness.  “I’m skeptical of that,” counters Emory psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, co-author of “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.”

Lilienfeld will be talking about the book as part of the Science Track of the AJC Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, August 31 at 3 pm.

“Neuro-imaging is an invaluable tool,” Lilienfeld says, “but like any tool, it can be overhyped. And I think overhyping can diminish a field’s credibility.”

He recalls when he was in graduate school during the 1980s, and the field of psychology was abuzz with the promise of the nuclear medical imaging technique known as positron emission tomography, or PET.

“A lot of people – smart people, actually – were saying that PET was going to replace the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness),” Lilienfeld says. “That, of course, never came to pass.”

The Science Track, sponsored by the Atlanta Science Tavern, has grown into one of the biggest draws for the festival, August 30 to September 1.  Some of 10 Science Track titles this year include “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter than we Think,” co-authored by Brian Hare (an Emory alum); “My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs,” by Brian Switek; and “The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates,” by Emory primatologist Frans de Waal.

Some intriguing science titles are also part of the book festival’s Atlanta Writers Showcase, including “Life Traces of the Georgia Coast,” by Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin, who will be speaking on Sunday, Sept. 1, at 3:00 pm.

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