Jana Harmon shares the story of Dr Fazale Rana who discovered God through his pursuit of science. His paradigm shift began when he began to find scientific explanations for the origin of life inadequate and started to look elsewhere
We all have assumptions about reality, about the way things are in the world. Most of the time, we’re pretty settled in our beliefs. We don’t question them, especially if they seem to make sense to us. They seem true to us and to those around us. But what happens when those beliefs are challenged, when we are presented with new information?
We’re generally confronted with a couple of options. We can shut down any opposing viewpoint without consideration and listen to those only within our own camp and become more convinced in our own beliefs. Or we can become open to other ideas, take a closer look at the confounding issue at hand, and look for the best explanation, the one that makes the most sense of what we’re seeing or experiencing.
But sometimes taking a closer look can be difficult. It can come with costs. We may need to reorient our own views in a way that seems a bit uncomfortable, that takes us in a direction we never anticipated. We all want to be intellectually honest, or at least think that we are. But that road can be both challenging and demanding, especially if we find that the truth leads us to situations or intellectual positions we thought we would never seriously consider, much less believe.
As a brilliant biochemist, sceptic Dr Fazale Rana valued objective truth. His intellectual curiosity, intellectual honesty and openness led him to begin questioning whether his naturalistic worldview could adequately explain his scientific observations. He began to reconsider the need for God, a tremendously uncomfortable paradigm shift. Now he is utterly convinced that, through science, people can see the reality of God’s existence and be set on a journey to come to know him. Here’s his story.
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Legacy of belief
‘Fuz’ grew up the son of a devout Muslim father, a nuclear physicist, and Catholic mother who did not actively practice her faith. Both generally held Christianity in a negative light as they had been exposed to strange, fundamentalist expressions of faith from seeming uneducated and unsophisticated people. Although his father never imposed Islam on him, Fuz attended occasional Muslim prayer meetings and became interested in Islamic theology. As a teenager, it was a way to relationally connect with his father. He learned how to pray, read the Quran and spent a year exploring Islam despite bullied by peers. After a period of study, he became disillusioned with the religion as burdensome, lacking meaning and understanding. By the time he graduated from high school, he decided to leave religion behind.
Pursuit of science
At university, Fuz began to study science, chemistry and biology, the courses and professors all providing an explanation for the Universe apart from God. At the time, he wasn’t sure whether God existed, recalling:
“The grand claim in biology is that everything can be explained through evolutionary mechanisms. And if biology can be fully accounted through by mechanism, then what role is there for a creator to play? A creator becomes superfluous. Science is the answer to our problems as human beings. It can uncover the secrets of nature and dramatically impact people’s lives.”
Science became an obsession and the question of God became a non-issue. His academic pursuits drove him through his doctoral study and into a career. Immersed in that environment, Fuz was thrilled at the process of investigation, and marveled at the nature of biochemical systems. It was through that study that he became interested in one of the biggest questions of all, the origin of life. How did organic life begin on the Earth from non-organic life? His enthusiasm was stilted as he quickly learned that the answers were not coming as easily as he anticipated, recalling:
“Through that investigation, I very quickly came to the recognition that these processes that people are speculating could generate biochemical systems seem woefully inadequate to me. It just doesn’t seem like chemistry and physics could produce these kinds of systems, because I had enough experience as a chemist to know how hard it is to get chemicals to do what you want them to do under carefully controlled conditions in a laboratory setting. To think that somehow molecules that are far more complex than anything that a chemist could ever dream of producing in the lab could just simply emerge through chemical evolution just seemed to me to be far-fetched.”
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Looking beyond the physical world
Surprised and disappointed at the lack of substantive findings to account for the origin of life from a purely chemical process, he decided that there had to be a better explanation, concluding:
“There has to be a mind behind everything, that at least when it comes to the origin of life and the origin of biochemical systems, there had to be a higher intelligence that brought those systems into existence. Now, once those systems are in existence, I reasoned at that point that evolutionary processes could have explained the history of life. But to me, at least with respect to the origin of life, there had to be some kind of creator that was responsible.”
The questions for Fuz then became ‘Who is that creator?’ and ‘How do I relate to that creator?’ He began searching through the teachings of the world’s religions, searching for one to point to this creator.
Fuz’s thinking changed when he began dating a young Christian woman. He knew he couldn’t become a Christian because, in his view, science and faith did not go together. But just as his parents navigated a home with different religious beliefs, perhaps he could as well. Before the wedding, Amy asked him to meet with her pastor who challenged him, saying: “Have you ever read the Bible?” Apart from Genesis, he had not. The pastor continued: “Well, how do you know it’s not true?”
Appealing to Fuz’s pride as a scientist, the pastor said: “Look, if you’re a scientist, you should be open to investigating truth claims no matter where they come from.” Fuz took up the challenge and began with the book of Matthew, a biography of Jesus. As he read The Sermon on the Mount, Fuz was immediately intrigued and confronted by the person of Christ and his teachings, recalling:
“I realize that this is the way that I want to live, that what Christ is teaching here is true. I found the person of Christ very winsome, and at the same time, I was being condemned by what Christ was teaching. And I had this desire to please Jesus that was really odd to me. I realized that there’s no way I could live up to the standards of Christ. But I wanted to. And I wouldn’t have had the words for it at that time, but I was really confronted with my sin.”
While wrestling with his own sin, he read a booklet that explained the gospel. The bad news about humanity is that everyone is a sinner and separated from God. The good news is that Jesus as God came to earth as a human, lived a sinless life and died on a cross to take the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven and reconciled in relationship to God. For the first time, Fuz understood that he needed God’s forgiveness and he bowed his head and prayed to receive Christ. A few hours later something mysterious happened:
“That evening, I remember reading again the Sermon on the Mount. I had what I would call a religious experience, where it felt like there was a person in the room with me while I was really contemplating what the Sermon on the Mount meant. And I had this overwhelming sense that this was true. And I’ve never had an experience like that before. I never had an experience like that afterwards. And so I would just say that it was an encounter that I had with the resurrected Christ. That that was part of that process of really drawing me towards Jesus.”
Reconciling science and faith
From Fuz’s scientific mind, he logically deduced, that if there really is a creator, then there was room for the miraculous. His religious experience made sense in light of a supernatural reality. It was a piece of evidence pointing towards the existence of God. Since he has been a Christian, Fuz’s study of biochemistry has also pointed more and more towards the evidence for design. He contends:
“I think experiencing God is as much evidential as actually seeing the elegant structure of a biochemical system or a biomolecule. And the thing is that, as a scientist, you have a theory. You have data that seems to support the theory. Your work isn’t done. You continue to devise experiments and observations to interrogate that theory, to determine whether that theory continues to withstand ongoing scrutiny. And so, for the 35 years I’ve been a Christian, I’ve continued to challenge my conversion. I continue to study biochemistry and see even more and more evidence for design. In fact, I’ve worked hard to develop design arguments based on the latest advances in biochemistry, as a way to formalize that intuition of design that I had. I continue to study the origin of life question and seeing more and more intractable problems from a purely naturalistic paradigm emerge over the 35 years that I’ve been investigating. I’ve learned the historical arguments for the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the arguments made for the reliability of the Bible.”
For Fuz, faith in God is not blind belief but rather about looking at evidence and then acting on it. It is placing trust in what you think is true just as in science. In his view, God has revealed himself through nature and through scripture. If science investigates the world of nature, then science should uncover pointers to God. He welcomes a faith that invites predictions and testing because the answers continue to lead him towards the reality of God. And, now he is “more convinced than ever, not afraid to look at challenges from sceptics who challenge the God of the Bible as an explanation for who the Creator is”’ His paradigm shift is complete.
If you’d like to listen to Fazale Rana tell his full story, tune into the Side B Stories Episode 52, October 2022. Or, you can find it on the Side B Stories website at www.sidebstories.com.
Jana Harmon hosts the Side B Stories podcast where former atheists and sceptics talk about their turn from disbelief to belief in God and Christianity. She is a teaching fellow for the CS Lewis Institute of Atlanta and former adjunct professor in cultural apologetics at Biola University where she received an MA in Christian apologetics. Jana also holds a PhD in religion and theology from the University of Birmingham in England. Her research focused on religious conversion of atheists to Christianity. Her forthcoming book is entitled, Unlikely Stories of Atheists Finding God: Conversions to Christianity in the Contemporary West.
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