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Development of the human body from a single cell provides many examples of the structural richness that is possible when the repeated production of random variation is combined with nonrandom selection. All phases of body development from embryo to adult exhibit random activities at the cellular level, and body formation depends utterly on the new possibilities generated by these activities coupled with selection of those outcomes that satisfy previously built-in criteria. (from The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation by John E. Mayfield)

Among the two things, 'possibilities' and 'activities', which does the bolded phrase 'coupled with ~ criteria' modify?

If the bolded phrase modifies 'possibilities', 'the new possibilities generated by these activities' is modified by the bolded phrase. If the bolded phrase modifies 'activities', 'these activities coupled with selection of those outcomes that satisfy previously built-in criteria' is first formed. Then this noun phrase is connected with 'by'.

Which is appropriate in terms of meaning?

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  • new possibilities generated by these activities// together with selection of those outcomes etc. coupled with means together with here.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 7 at 18:19
  • 2
    It modifies possibilities: ... the new possibilities [that are] generated by these activities coupled with selection of those outcomes that... Commented Jul 7 at 23:35

1 Answer 1

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The activities refers to the random cellular-level goings-on. The "possibilities" and "outcomes" refer to the results of such random goings-on. All phases of body development from embryo to adult are dependend upon the results of that randomness (the possibilities, the outcomes) coupled with selection of outcomes that satisfy criteria previously built-in (how and where the criteria get "built-in" is not described there).

In other words, criteria-based selection of random cellular level outcomes is the engine or mechanism of body development from embryo to adult.

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