Spring 2005

Altered Nuclear Transfer: A Critique of a Critique

Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco

“With ANT, the enucleated egg—because of genetic manipulations done either to the egg or to the donor cell or to both simultaneously—is prevented from reprogramming the transferred genome to an embryo-like epigenetic state. . . . no embryo—no organism—is generated.”

In his philosophical critique of Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT) recently published in Communio, Adrian J. Walker concludes that ANT is technically and morally indistinguishable from human cloning.1 In his words, ANT “so long as it deploys the same basic technical strategy for the same basic purpose, always turns out to be a form of human cloning with a twist.”2 Walker’s argument is fundamentally flawed. In this critique of his critique, I will argue that Walker’s erroneous conclusion stems from a misunderstanding of developmental biology that leads him to mistakenly believe that the physical coming-to-be of a reasonably complete human genome in an enucleated human egg is the essential event that constitutes a new human organism.

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1. Adrian J. Walker, “Altered Nuclear Transfer: A Philosophical Critique,” Communio 31 (2005): 649-684. For a description of Altered Nuclear Transfer, see William Hurlbut, “Altered nuclear transfer as a morally acceptable means for the procurement of human embryonic stem cells,” National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 5 (2005): 145–151.

2. Walker, “Altered Nuclear Transfer,” 662.