Apparently secular science (a bit of a misleading term in itself since science doesn’t conform to any belief structure) is lying to us. It dares to suggest that we evolved, and that we share a common ancestry with other hominids. It’s all one big fabrication!

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Wait, what?

Don’t worry, I don’t actually believe that. Not by a long shot. Unfortunately, our good friend TB from Theology Archaeology does, and this is the argument he has put forward in one of his recent posts. I quote:

Secularists complain that Christians are against science but in reality we are against the lies that secular science tells and this one is a whopper. There are no such things as Neanderthals or Denisovans, those groups of supposed people are mere figments of the scientific imagination. Someone once said that if you knew a subject well enough, you can confuse anybody well that is what the secular scientist is doing. They are using their scientific language and theories to confuse the world.

Emphasis mine, largely highlighted for irony. People who study any given subject (especially for years, as their profession) will know their subject! If a layperson is confused by the evidence (and the theories that come from that evidence) it’s hardly the fault of science or the scientist! It’s not some conspiracy to deny Biblical truth – it’s instead a desire to learn about the world around us, and if what we learn should contradict the most rigid, literal interpretation of one religious document out of many, who is actually lying?

I should point out that I am not saying ‘don’t read from the Bible, ignore all its messages’. I warn against taking it literally, especially when a literal interpretation will have irrevocable differences to several scientific fields. The use of pseudo-scientific terms and methods (a hallmark of creationists) is extremely damaging to the pursuit of real science and real scientific education, for it is those who are in fact ignorant of science (hence their efforts to inject religious beliefs into it) who are trying to confuse the world.

I could go on at great length, but my advice to you is to do some research of your own, and decide for yourself.

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I include England as the first possible dark horse, albeit speaking as an Englishman I am not confident we even qualify as that.

Speaking of qualifying, this went quite well for England, with the side winning all ten of their matches, though the group wasn’t exactly formidable. Has this given rise to unfettered optimism? Not for me it hasn’t. England’s record in major tournaments since 2002 is:

2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, Euro 2004 quarter-finalists, 2006 quarter-finalists, 2008 did not qualify, 2010 2nd round, 2012 quarter-finalists, 2014 group stage. Not exactly formidable or awe-inspiring.

Can Roy Hodgson turn England’s fortunes around in France, and who will be his key players?

Wayne Rooney is often presented as crucial to England but injuries have left him devoid of the pace he once had. He is England’s all-time top scorer but most of these goals have come against minnows, and he hasn’t exactly been in sparkling form of late. To cap things off, he is currently injured – he’ll be fit in time for the Euros but what sort of form will he be in? The trouble is, Hodgson will probably pick him regardless.

Harry Kane burst onto the scene last season and has continued to score goals for Spurs. He is, in my view, a must, as is his Tottenham colleague Dele Alli. The two of them have struck up a good working relationship and barring injury, both need to be in the squad. Another player who may yet be in the squad is Leicester forward Jamie Vardy, who has been in good form for the table toppers. His Leicester colleague Danny Drinkwater could yet also be in contention, and given his form, deserves to be considered.

All in all though, it’s difficult to work England out for sure. I couldn’t begin to work out who truly deserves to go, and even if I could, it doesn’t mean they will go. After a miserable World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals would be progress.

Back to Euro 2016

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This summer the European Championships return, four years on from Spain triumphing in the competition and two years on from Germany being crowned world champions. France are the hosts in an expanded championship that sees 24 teams contest the title.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at the key contenders to win the tournament, as well as evaluating the chances of a few dark horses as well. I hope you enjoy!

Team Profiles: Germany

Team Profiles: Spain

Team Profiles: France

Team Profiles: England

Team Profiles: Italy

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What is there to say about the Germans that hasn’t already been said? The world champions conquered the world last time out in Brazil because they were the best team, and their football is incisive, quick and deadly. The manner in which they dispatched hosts Brazil in the semi-final remains one of the most remarkable displays of ruthless football I have ever seen.

Will they be at the sharp end of Euro 2016? History would suggest it – Germany’s record in the past few major tournaments is impressive and consistent – World Cup finalists in 2002,  semi-finalists in 2006, Euro 2008 finalists, World Cup semi-finalists in 2010 and Euro 2012 semi-finalists (and of course, World Cup winners in 2014), is a formidable record, so expect the Germans to be there or thereabouts this time as well.

That being said, their qualification campaign for the Euros wasn’t quite as plain sailing as it might have been. Defeats to Poland and Republic of Ireland (and a draw at home to Republic of Ireland) meant they didn’t secure their place till late in the day – but ultimately it was never in doubt that Germany would make it.

Key Players

It’s hard to single out any one German player, given their cohesion as a team, but there are a few that could prove the difference between victory and defeat when the heat is on.

Sami Khedira is a strong presence in Germany’s midfield, someone who can dictate the pace of the game, along with Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Lukas Podolski (it feels like I’m listing the entire team here). The collective experience of their midfield is frightening – those six players have 410 caps between them – and we need to add Andre Schurrle’s 50 to that.

Podolski and Mario Gomez have scored nearly 150 goals between them. As you can see, singling out any one key player for Germany is hard.

They’re my personal tip to win the competition. The strength that they have is astounding.

Back to Euro 2016

Earlier today my wife, daughter and I took a walk to Bas Vegas (google it, trust me it’s a thing) to see an Easter event – namely a gathering of various superheroes/heroines and villains, and an Easter Egg hunt (though we didn’t do that, as it took place outside and the weather was absolutely atrocious – nothing but torrential rain, plus the prize was a single Creme Egg).

My little girl wasn’t fussed by this anyway – not when she could step inside the TARDIS for a photo (and get one of the outside too), plus pose with one of her heroes – the fearsome Lord Vader! This was made all the better by her wearing her own Vader outfit! Meanwhile, my wife got her photo taken with Wonder Woman and I sneaked a picture with Iron Man!

Had the weather been a little better the whole occasion might have been grander, but it was still a good day out!

KnightRider

 

StormTrooper

Joker

FlashBlackWidowBatGirl

Batman

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I don’t usually get too excited about England’s prospects at a major football tournament. I’m currently preparing a series of pages on the upcoming European Championships (held in France later this year), and I’m not exactly waxing lyrical about England. That being said, last night’s performance against world champions Germany was encouraging.

For one thing, we didn’t sit back and let the Germans dictate the tempo of the match. England pressed, constantly getting into the faces of the German players and denying them time on the ball. This pleasing (and uncharacteristic) approach from Roy Hodgson’s side saw us win the ball in dangerous positions and threaten more often.

The overall pace and energy of the team was much improved. Youngsters Dele Alli and Harry Kane both gave good accounts of themselves, as did Eric Dier, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Rose. Their workrate was impressive and they weren’t phased by the occasion.

There are some caveats to all this. Germany fielded an experienced side but one that nonetheless isn’t necessarily their first choice team. They also didn’t play especially well, yet still took a two goal lead. They typically don’t perform brilliantly in friendlies – but even so, for England to come back from two nil down to win showed character and determination that has only been fleetingly witnessed across the past couple of decades. There was no Joe Hart, no Raheem Sterling, no Wayne Rooney, or Leighton Baines, whilst James Milner and Daniel Sturridge were in the squad but didn’t play – on the strength of the performance, are any of those players guaranteed a spot for the Euros?

There was also no Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain – all good players who unfortunately struggle with injuries – and no Luke Shaw either, but the one player whose usually automatic place in the squad needs to be questioned is Wayne Rooney. He no longer possesses the explosive pace he once had and his form for Man Utd this season hasn’t exactly been stellar. Yes, he is England’s all-time top scorer, but most of his goals have come against minnows, and surely a player who is not in form should not go (or at the very least, not be in the starting line-up)?

Compare him to Kane and Jamie Vardy. Kane has been in sparkling form for Spurs and his goal last night was pure quality. His Cruyff-esque turn (an appropriate tribute to the late and legendary Johann Cruyff) on the edge of Germany’s penalty area, followed by a crisp finish into the far corner, was a moment of magic, whilst Vardy’s cheeky flick beyond Neuer’s grasp to equalise was the mark of a striker full of confidence. It’s hard to imagine England playing with that sort of pace with a slow Rooney in the side.

There are still question marks over the centre of England’s defence. Gary Cahill does reasonably well for Chelsea but was found wanting and in the middle of nowhere for Germany’s second goal and this is not the first time he has been caught out against talented opposition. Phil Jagielka is experienced but does he have what it takes at the highest level? John Stones is full of potential and dare I say it, Chris Smalling hasn’t been too bad. Still, defence is England’s biggest weakness.

So, whilst the win over Germany was a fine one, questions remain.

wpid-wp-1447423133113.pngThe penultimate round of my little career concluded earlier on, with yet another wet race at Interlagos.

My previous two attempts to win this grand prix failed, with the conditions proving tricky on tyres – a three stop strategy was the way to go, but intermediate tyres don’t fare too well even on a three stopper, so the race would be a challenge.

Having qualified on pole, I felt reasonably confident of at least challenging for a win, but a slow start saw me drop to third and trail the battling duo of Webber and Barichello until lap 6, when I was able to close in and sweep by both of them on the start-finish straight. I tried to build up a gap that would allow me to retain the lead after the first round of stops, but the aforementioned tyre troubles meant I ended up behind the two of them after the stops had sorted themselves out.

In championship terms, I was on course to be champion – Button had been knocked out of qualifying in Q2, and had clawed his way back into the points but he was well behind me – so winning the race wasn’t crucial, but I had hoped to win at a venue I had failed at twice before. I wasn’t trailing by too much, but after the second round of stops I’d make a mistake that would end my hopes of victory.

Whilst attempting to sweep by Hamilton, Vettel, Webber and Barichello (backmarkers had held the leaders up), I ended up going into the back of someone and had to serve a ten second stop-go penalty. The time lost to this meant I was never going to win, so instead the focus had to be on finishing ahead of Button.

This was straight-forward enough, I needed a two point (or more) gain on him to guarantee the title, and I was running in fifth after the final set of stops, whilst Button was in seventh. I was closing in on Hamilton but ultimately I didn’t push too hard. I just had to see the race out.

After 71 laps, I came home in fifth, and in doing so won my third title. With the championship mine, I could relax and look forward to enjoying the finale!

As my wife and I walked home after sorting out some stuff in town today, we spied something in the bushes that we hadn’t expected to find – a moped, that had been dumped there, right by a path near our house, partially embedded in the greenery. Once inside, I phoned the police, who advised me they’d send someone to check it out. In the meantime, we went back out to collect our daughter from school.

Shortly after getting back, I happened to look out the window, to notice this:

imageThe very same moped that had been ‘parked’ in the bushes was now alight, and the blaze took hold quite quickly and ferociously. I phoned the fire services (who, it turns out, had already been phoned) and waited as the blaze grew stronger. Thankfully, a fire engine showed up shortly after I’d phoned, and the fire was dealt with.

My wife and I were suspicious when we first found the moped. It’s rather hasty placement made us think it had been stolen, and this was confirmed when the owner actually knocked, asking if we knew anything (sadly, we didn’t witness anything, so can’t be of much help there).

What’s worrying about this entire saga is that A: it took place virtually on our doorstep (as you can see from the picture) and that B: the perpetrator(s) had absolutely no regard for the owner’s property, nor the safety of anyone in the vicinity. It’s possible that the fire was accidental (the result of the engine being left running in a state of panic as they fled the scene, or something along those lines). The cynic in me believes it was a deliberate act, either by the same people who stole it or by equally callous individuals who thought it would be ‘fun’ to set it alight, and damn anyone who happened to live nearby.

The worst part is, there is probably no evidence of who took it, so no one is likely to be taken to task for this, even though my family and several others were potentially in serious danger.