674: Natural Parenting

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Natural Parenting
On one hand, every single one of my ancestors going back billions of years has managed to figure it out. On the other hand, that's the mother of all sampling biases.
Title text: On one hand, every single one of my ancestors going back billions of years has managed to figure it out. On the other hand, that's the mother of all sampling biases.

[edit] Explanation

This comic relates to the anxiety most couples experience after having a child. Often people will advise new parents to "do what comes naturally and trust their instincts", a vague snippet of thought that offers little help to the new parents.

The couple Cueball and Megan find themselves with a child. Both parents experience anxiety over how to manage their life with the child. The father defuses the situation and states that parenting can not be that hard because they should do what comes naturally... only for the couple to find themselves with a second child and still no idea about how to parent. The joke is they took the phrase "what comes naturally" literally and acted upon their base urges, giving into the urge "have more sex", rather than actually focusing on the child(ren).

Natural parenting may be an allusion to attachment parenting. This strategy for child-rearing normally entails extended nursing and encourages positive reinforcement. Sometimes modern medicine and processed foods are restricted as well. Natural parenting approaches can vary greatly from parent to parent. Because of the awkwardness and stigma of breastfeeding as well as its traditionalism, attachment parenting can elicit powerful opinions from both its opponents and proponents. Various media and politicians have seized on this hot topic, as well as motherhood in general. Extreme natural parenting methods became the notorious cover story of TIME Magazine in May 2012.

The title text claims that parenting can't be too hard because historically all of your ancestors (except possibly your parents if they are not yet grandparents) must have figured it out since they produced at least one child that successfully had children. Randall jokes that this is the "mother" of all sampling biases. Out of all of our ancestors the only ones that could potentially fail could be our parents (if we do not produce children). Had any other of our ancestors not been successful we would not exist. Therefore this sampling is heavily skewed by sampling those that were successful in at least one instance. It also does not take into account the number of times our ancestors failed with the children we are not directly descended from.

The baby says, "Baby!", either copying Cueball, or saying its name, Pokémon-style. This is also the topic of 441: Babies and 1384: Krypton.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball and Megan are standing with a baby in between them.]
Cueball: Oh man, we made a baby.
Megan: Don't panic. Don't panic.
Baby: Baby!
Cueball: Parenting can't be that hard. Let's just do what comes naturally.
[Beat frame.]
[There are now two babies in between them.]
Megan: Aw, crap.
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The song "Doing What Comes Naturally" from Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun also explores this meaning: "Grandpa Bill is on the hill / with someone he just married. / There he is at ninety-three / doing what comes naturally." 19:41, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

The title text includes the phrase "the mother of all sampling biases". This is a riff on the phrase "the mother of all battles", which was originally used by Saddam Hussein, the late president of Iraq, to refer to the first Gulf War (1990-1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and was later beaten back to its borders by a coalition of forces from other countries). Since then, the phrase "the mother of all X" for various X has become something of a meme. Here, it's more ironic than usual, because (a) parenting can sometimes be viewed as something of a battle and (b) as the explanation already suggests, the comic is literally about being a parent. 04:26, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

"The Mother of all sampling biases" also refers to the fact that he's talking about his mother, and his mother's mother, and his mother's mother's mother, all the way back to Eve. 21:17, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
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