Original Research - Special Collection: SASRF The resurgence of metaphysics in science and philosophy and theology

Evolution, reproduction and autopoiesis

Francois Durand
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4726 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4726 | © 2017 Francois Durand | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 July 2017 | Published: 17 November 2017

About the author(s)

Francois Durand, Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


The term autopoiesis was coined to describe the regenerating and self-maintaining chemical systems of cells. The term has subsequently been applied to many different fields, including sociology, systems theory and information systems. This theory postulates that an autopoietic unity (cell, machine) is an organised network of processes that exists in a delimited space, which produces components which in turn continuously regenerate and create the network of processes that produced them. The Santiago Theory of Cognition grew from the Theory of Allopoiesis stating that all living systems are cognitive systems, and the process of living is a process of cognition. Cognition is the ability to adapt to a certain environment and cognition emerges because of a continuous bilateral interaction between the system and its environment. The resultant complexity seen in living systems is caused by this interaction between the system and its environment. Autopoiesis and cognition are however opposing concepts because cognition can only exist when the system is open and not closed as autopoiesis suggests. It is also difficult to see how autopoietic systems could originate if they are closed and how the continuous change which we see in evolution can be explained if life consists of autopoietic systems. It is postulated that cells and organisms are in fact open systems relating genetically to ancestors before them and their ever-changing descendants after them and the flow of molecules and energy through an ever-changing ecology.


Autopoiesis; Allopoiesis; germ cells; evolution


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