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 of having a first child, particularly an unplanned child, and is a play on the double meaning of the expression "do what comes naturally".

Doing what comes naturally is a euphemism for couples pairing off and forming intimate relationships, including sex. It is also advice given to new parents, advising them not to second guess themselves so much, to alleviate the stress that comes with parenting.

The couple Cueball and Megan find themselves as unexpected parents. Both parents experience anxiety over how to manage their life with the child. The new father defuses the situation and states that parenting can not be that hard and they should just do what comes naturally. Naturally the couple find themselves with a second child. This adds insult to injury as now they have two children and still no idea about how to parent. As the first child was an "accident" the birth of the child was because of instinctual urges. Therefore, assuming nothing has changed in their relationship it would be natural if they produced another child.

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

The title text claims that parenting can't be too hard because, up to the present, all of your ancestors have produced an unbroken line of children who figured out how to raise at least one child that is able to continue this unbroken chain. Randall jokes that this is the "mother" of all sampling biases: Had anyone of one's ancestors completely failed at being parents, that person would never exist. Therefore, this sampling is heavily skewed by sampling only those that were all successful in at least one instance. It does not take into account the number of people in the past who do not have any lineage today to speak of, or the number times our ancestors failed at being parents to children we are not directly descended from.

441: Babies and 1384: Krypton also depict Cueball and Megan as people who should not be trusted with babies.


[Cueball and Megan are looking down at a baby, throwing its arms in the air, standing between them.]
Cueball: Oh man, we made a baby.
Megan: Don't panic. Don't panic.
Baby: Baby!
[Cueball looks at Megan, who still look down at the baby, which now looks down at her feet.]
Cueball: Parenting can't be that hard. Let's just do what comes naturally.
[In a frame-less panel they all three just stand there, they look down and the baby has spread it's arms out. Beat frame.]
[A caption is in a frame at the top of the panel. Cueball and Megan are looking down between them. There are now two babies, one larger looking at Cueball's feet the smaller looking at Megan's feet.]
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

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

Did the baby grow old enough to stand on its own and talk BEFORE Cueball and Megan first noticed it? Or to they give birth to super-babies? These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:48, 27 November 2023 (UTC)

The Title text and the Explanation bring to mind a line in the lyrics of the Nightwish song 'The Greatest Show On Earth': "Not a single one of your fathers died young". These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:48, 27 November 2023 (UTC)