Letter writer Tony Hammond excoriates Alfred Nobel as a “monster” (“Wrong to name peace prize after inventor of dynamite,” Jan. 2).

The truth is a bit more nuanced. Nobel did not discover nitroglycerin (Ascanio Sobrero did in 1847). While Nobel invented dynamite and was an arms manufacturer, a premature obituary (“The merchant of death is dead”) spurred him to seek a better epitaph.

He left the equivalent of $250 million to create his various prizes, including the peace prize. To condemn those who develop weapons and military hardware is to indict that scoundrel Galileo (who perceived the military value of the telescope), along with the war-mongering Alfred Einstein (who wrote that famous letter to FDR about the prospects for an atomic bomb). Only recently, Obama has had to bribe the right wing with billions of dollars to “upgrade” our atomic arsenal in order to achieve ratification of the START treaty.

Our obsession with ways to kill our fellow men and our placement of vast resources in the service of destruction cannot be laid solely at the feet of Alfred Nobel.

H.R. Coursen


Tony Hammond’s letter about the Nobel Peace Prize amazed me.

For starters, all of the Nobel prizes, which include physical science, chemistry, medicine and literature, as well as the peace prize, were named after Alfred Nobel because he’s the one who created and funded them.

Nobel did not invent nitroglycerin, as Mr. Hammond states, but he did use it in his most famous invention. It is true that dynamite, one of many hundreds of his inventions, has had destructive power, although it is also responsible for many positive aspects of our lives such as blasting holes for foundations and tunnels through mountains.

Dynamite made Nobel rich, but it was the death of his brother that inspired his greatest works. When Ludvig Nobel died in France, the newspaper erroneously printed Alfred’s obituary, a negative piece not unlike Mr. Hammond’s letter. Alfred Nobel was crushed; he didn’t want to be remembered as “the merchant of death,” and rewrote his will, leaving his vast wealth to establish the Nobel prizes.

So, Mr. Hammond, Alfred Nobel could be an inspiration to those who’ve made fortunes at the expense of others but used the money to help future generations. I wonder if Dick Cheney will use his Halliburton gains to establish a fund for others.

Facts are very important. It’s all right to have opinions, Mr. Hammond, but you can’t have opinions about facts. Before you take someone to task, investigate to make sure of the truth of the situation.

Joan Steinberg


Letter writer mistaken on Darwin and evolution

Is it too much to ask the editorial staff of the letters page to do some simple fact-checking? The letter from Elbridge Gagnon of Houlton (“Evolution is occurring right around us daily,” Jan. 2) is riddled with basic factual errors.

Darwin did not believe inherited genes or DNA controlled evolution, because Darwin was unaware of the existence of such things as genes and DNA. The work of Gregor Mendel on inheritance was not widely publicized until it was duplicated by other researchers in 1900, almost 20 years after Darwin’s death and 40 years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species.” The role of DNA and its function in carrying genetic information was not known until 1928, when the work of Frederick Griffith provided that suggestion.

The work of the NASA researchers on the arsenic-based life form is in no sense a rebuttal of the theory of evolution nor does it confirm that the environment offers greater control of evolution than genes. Evolution is the result of interaction between the genes and the environment creating change in the inherited traits of a population through generations and resulting in variants with particular traits becoming more common or less common. Mutation and genetic recombination are the major sources of genetic change, and natural selection through differential survival and reproduction adaptively adjusts traits so that they are more suited to an organism’s environment.

Jenny Doughty


Wind power offers Maine clean energy and jobs

I am writing to provide additional perspective due to a Dec. 30 Maine Voices column from North Carolina resident Paul Rudershausen regarding the wind industry in Maine (“State’s record on wind power has little to boast about”).

The author quotes former Gov. John Baldacci saying that it’s “all about that view,” referencing the governor’s recent comments at a groundbreaking ceremony. The author used the words to attempt to create a discrepancy regarding the view of a wind farm.

It’s ironic the author would use that choice of words, because 88 percent of people in Maine don’t have a problem with the view of a wind farm. In fact, many people believe that they are beautiful structures, complimenting Maine’s scenery and representing a healthier, cleaner, safer energy future.

Unfortunately, for most opponents of wind power, it is “all about the view.” Opponents of wind power in Maine must know that they are a small group — many from out of state — who simply don’t like the view of wind farms. Once they determined the “view” argument was ineffective, they began using inaccurate information and scare tactics that have consistently been shot down by experts, courts, communities and citizens who take the time to research the facts and draw their own conclusions.

It is unfortunate that proponents of the energy status quo (i.e. more coal, oil, and gas) would use this type of approach to attempt to convince readers that somehow green energy and Maine jobs are bad for Maine people. That tactic might be the way of life in North Carolina, but it certainly isn’t the “way life should be” in Maine.

Jeremy Payne

Executive Director, Maine Renewable Energy Association


As discussions about wind energy in Maine progress, one important subject matter tends to get lost in the shuffle: job creation.

Maine has seen significant job creation and economic impact from wind energy during a recession that has seen job decreases in a number of other industries. In the wind industry about 20 percent of jobs come from engineering and construction related activities, and about 59 percent of the jobs are related to manufacturing.

To date, the wind industry has invested $800 million in Maine, employing people in many areas, including engineering, ecological studies, permitting and construction.

Maine has also experienced some growth in manufacturing through wind, with work being done in the machining, metal fabrication and composite industries. Yet, our state has just begun to tap the manufacturing market and there is potential for significant growth.

Maine workers who have been providing services for industry sectors such as energy, defense and paper stand to find new opportunities as they have transferable skills compatible for manufacturing jobs within the wind industry.

Global companies will continue to invest in regions that project high demand. We can continue to attract investment if our state remains committed to our strong renewable energy goals. However, if projects experience unnecessary delays and we continue to debate moratoriums without any justifiable cause, then opportunities for additional investment in Maine will be lost, and Maine workers will once again be left in the cold.

Each industrialized nation in the world continues to invest heavily in clean renewable wind energy, as the world’s current sources of energy will not meet future global demand.

We have a great opportunity to join other nations by investing in the renewable energy industry creating jobs in Maine. We need to take advantage of it now, before the opportunity passes us by.

Paul Williamson



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