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Ann Druyan on Prescott

During an interview with Ann Druyan by Arnell Dowret on Equal Time for Freethought, WBAI-FM, NYC, May 15, 2005, Ann Druyan answered a question about James W. Prescott's work, which was mentioned in Carl Sagan's Cosmos.


An audio clip (2 minutes, 20 seconds) from the interview is available for download in WAV and Ogg Vorbis formats.

Interview in WAV format (23.6 MB)

Interview in Ogg Vorbis format (1.9 MB)


Transcribed by Joel Schlosberg.

Arnell Dowret: Annie, one of the references made in Cosmos that to me seemed very cutting-edge, was the work of cross-cultural psychologist Dr. James Prescott, who demonstrated that there is a significant relationship between a culture's propensity toward violence and the quality of the mother-infant bond and physical pleasure. How did you find Dr. Prescott?

Ann Druyan: It's been so long I can't remember if it was Carl; or Steve Soter, our co-writer on the Cosmos series; or me. I don't honestly remember. I think it was Carl, but I'm not absolutely sure who first became attracted to Prescott's ideas. And we were very interested in a cross-cultural perspective, which seemed to be consistent. Of course, it also supported our prejudices, and our belief non-scientifically that if you are deeply loved as a child — by anyone, really, it doesn't have to be a mother, it could be anyone in your life — but if you were consistently and deeply loved as a child, you're more likely to have compassion, and you're more likely to be able to identify and to empathize with people. And I find so much of the violence, both by the state and by individuals in my lifetime, I'm always thinking to myself, "Didn't anybody really love that person? And teach them how to love, and teach them how to imagine how awful it would be to be blown up in a bomb or bombed from above? How could people do this if they have that empathic experience?" And so, the Prescott material affected us profoundly, because we really felt we're looking for a key. Why do we behave the way we do? Why are we so cruel to each other and so harsh? This is a conundrum of human existence. We obviously know better, and yet we have this ability just to rationalize, or simply to pretend not to see the things that we know are wrong. So I'm fascinated by this question. I don't think we have the answer yet, but it just seems to me that you're probably less likely to do those things if you have that childhood experience.