674: Natural Parenting

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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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.


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This comic relates to the anxiety most couples experience after having a child. Often people will advice new parents to do what comes naturally and trust their instincts. This offers little help to the new parents.

In this comic a couple finds themselves with a child. Both parents experience anxiety over how to manage there life with the child. The father, to defuse the situation states that parenting can not be that hard, and that they should do what comes naturally. Later the couple find them selves with a second child and still no idea about how to parent. Since the couple was attracted to each other enough to have a child in the first place, doing what comes naturally included having another child. Thus the "natural" instincts for breeding are strong, but the instincts for raising children properly are week, incomplete, or non-existent.

The title text claims that parenting can't be too hard because historically everyone's grandparents must have figured it out since they produced a child that successfully bred. Randall jokes that this is the "mother" of all sampling biases because his ancestors represent only the (possibly small) fraction who successful raised children, instead of the entire sample of people attempting to raise children.

The baby says, "Baby!", either copying Cueball, or saying its name, Pokémon-style.

441: Babies is another strip featuring clueless new parents.

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.


[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)

I think in this case, the comic was only using the meme and most likely not considering the original phrase (which is not nearly as well known). 04:24, 23 May 2017 (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)

Well, back to the first progenitor, who or whatever that may have been (probably not Eve). -Pennpenn 23:31, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
Except that people, at least from my experience, refer to the first woman as Eve, even when not necessarily talking about the biblical creation account. Mulan15262 (talk) 00:34, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
Case in point: Mitochondrial Eve -- Hkmaly (talk) 02:39, 27 May 2017 (UTC)
This is actually interesting question: what were the first names? Or, more exactly, what sounds were first used by humans to identify themselves? The English "Eve" is not so complicated sound, might actually be candidate (meanwhile, Ḥawwāh sounds complicated). -- Hkmaly (talk) 02:37, 27 May 2017 (UTC)
Damián Blasi suggests that the sounds "f" and "v" did not exist until farming allowed humans to eat softer food and to evolve an overbite. Source