Are You Asking the Right Question?

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 15 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

Far too often, people ask the wrong question. Raymond from The Old New Thing has a perfect example of this. Although his post is more about “people sometimes [asking] a question that can’t or shouldn’t
be answered because it is based upon a misunderstanding.”

I’m sitting here on the couch watching “I Am My Own Twin” on TLC (I TiVo’d it last night). The special chronicles the “stories of individuals born with a rare condition in which two embryos fuse together into one fetus.” A woman has given birth to several babies over a period of years and is applying for child support. DSHS has the woman, the man, and the babies get DNA tests to confirm paternity. However, when DSHS gets the tests back, the find that the woman shares no common DNA with the babies. At this point they ask, “You’re not the real mother. There is no way you can be the mother. Where did you get these kids from? Did your sister have these children and you’re taking them?”

This is an example of asking the wrong questions. If a person asks, “Who is your mother?” What data do you use to qualify your answer? What data can you use to qualify your answer?

I could say that Pam is my mother because she A) Physically gave birth to me, B) Shares 50% of DNA, and C) Raised me. I assume that for the purpose of the DSHS investigation, they don’t care who is currently rasing the child. This means that as far as DSHS is concerned, the mother is the person who gives birth to a child that shares ~50% of the DNA. The problem is (as this show goes to point out), that person may not be one and the same. In fact, “who is your mother?” can easily have at least three different answers, all of them correct!


4 thoughts on “Are You Asking the Right Question?”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with your statement about a person being able to “easily have at least three different answers, all of them correct” to the question “who is your mother?”. I think that each person has only one mother (at least that they recognise). I think if presented with three women, one who raised you, one who birthed you, and one who shares your DNA, you would point to the one who raised you as your mother. But the point is well taken: What makes someone a parent? It’s about more than biology, I can tell you that.

  2. John might call Jane his mother because Jane raised him.
    The State of Washington might call Sally John’s mother becuase it’s her DNA
    Swedish might call Patrica John’s mother because she gave birth to him.

    That’s the point I was trying to make.

  3. I thought for sure I could clear all this up by looking up the definition of “mother” however, the definition plays right into your problem and idea of the trinity of MOM, the definition is as follows; A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.
    however I that the real problem is not that people are asking the wrong question but that you are ferg. and there for make things more difficult than they need to be, you answer questions with an answer to what was actually asked rather than the one you know they meant to ask.
    the English language is full of things that don’t make sense literally but make perfect sense in the context which it is said.
    Don’t have a cow, Jesus!

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