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.


This comic relates to the anxiety most couples experience after having a child. Some couples employ an approach called natural parenting or attachment parenting. This strategy for child-rearing normally entails providing whole foods and extended nursing but can also include birth without anesthetics, applying reusable cloth diapers, using herbal remedies instead of medicine, and other decisions intended to protect the environment and raise a baby to be physically and mentally healthy. Natural parenting approaches can vary greatly from parent to parent, with some being very extreme and possibly detrimental. 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.

However, the characters in this strip took natural parenting to mean doing "what comes naturally", i.e. having another baby.

One interpretation of the title-text is as note of the sentiments expressed by proponents of natural parenting, stating that traditional or instinctive methods have worked for thousands of years. It is also possible that the narrator means that parenting can't be too hard because historically everyone must have figured it out. Randall jokes that this is the "mother" of all sampling biases because his ancestors represent only the (possibly small) fraction who survived the instinctive or easily learned methods of parenthood, instead of the entire sample of people attempting to raise children.


[A man and woman are standing with a baby in between them.]
Man: Oh man, we made a baby.
Woman: Don't panic. Don't panic.
Baby: Baby!
Man: Parenting can't be that hard. Let's just do what comes naturally.
[Beat frame]
[There are now two babies in between them.]
Woman: 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

The baby said baby :D! Beanie (talk) 11:18, 21 April 2021 (UTC)