I am sorry. I am not sure if I put the question in the right discussion board. But this board was the very one I’ve come often before. And none of my questions went unanswered.

Many thanks to our moderators, especially Mr. Micawber, Calijim, MrPedantic…They’ve kindly offered great help to me for improving my grammar skill. And eventually I got 68 (full mark) in the grammar section in January TOEFL test (and the total score I had is 640), though it’s common here in our country. I highly appreciate your help. Thank you, thank you so much!

Okay, here is the question,

Ethologists are convinced that many animals survive through learning-but learning that is ----- their genetic programming, learning as thoroughly ------- as the most instinctive of behavioral responses.

A. superseded by … primitive
B. compatible with … transient
C. complementary to ... familiar
D. derived from ... inventive
E. dictated by ... stereotyped

I have no clue at all what the sentence is implying, because I couldn’t follow the grammar rule of it. Not to mention, I can perceive which choice is correct.

So could you please help me analyze the sentence, and tell me which one is correct?
This is not the easiest example to unravel!

I thought of "instinctive" first. We need something in the second position that could describe responses the way that "instinctive" does, because of the "as ... as" construction. "primitive" and "stereotyped" both fill the bill. "inventive" certainly does not.

The next point is whether "superseded" or "dictated" is better. It has to be something such that genetic programming can [supersede / dictate] learning, and, since it's learning, I doubt that genetics can actually supersede it -- influence maybe, but not supersede. It seems to strong a word for that context.

Looking back at "primitive", I don't think that's the point. Contrasting human and animal responses, I think both can be primitive, but animal behavior is much more stereotyped and predictable.

On the basis of the arguments above, I believe E is the best answer.

Let's see what others say.

Congratulations on the TOEFL test, Jeff!

I too would choose E. Only 'stereotyped' makes sense for the second blank.

To paraphrase:

'Ethologists are convinced that many animals survive because they are able to learn – but to learn only in ways that are dictated their genetic programming. This kind of learning is as thoroughly stereotyped as the most instinctive of behavioral responses.'

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Thank you so much, you two. Now I got it clearly. Once I understand the construction of the sentence, I’m close to the point.
But I think there should be an and between “learning that is ----- their genetic programming” and “learning as thoroughly ------- as the most instinctive of behavioral responses”, because they are the clauses having the same function to explain learning that many animals survive through. Am I right?
Perhaps an and would do in a pinch, but a "that is," or a "that is to say," or an "in other words" would be more to the point.

Ohhh, so 'that is' serves as a conj here. I just thought that is relative pronoun, and learning is its antecedent.
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The "that is" I refer to does not occur in the original sentence:

Ethologists are convinced that many animals survive through learning-but learning that is dictated by their genetic programming, [that is, / that is to say, / in other words,] learning as thoroughly stereotyped as the most instinctive of behavioral responses.

thatIS the relative pronoun. "learning" IS its antecedent. Emotion: smile

Emotion: smile Hehe Now I see. So 'that's/that's to say/in other words' can be leaved out in the above mentioned sentence?! Don't tell me I got it wrong again.
Yes they can be "leaved" out. But we prefer to say that they can be "left" out!!! Emotion: smile (Irregular verb!)
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