Year in Review: Learning more about God’s creation | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Year in Review: Learning more about God’s creation

Some discoveries from 2023 made life better, others required caution

A nesting chinstrap penguin snoozes in a rookery on Orne Harbour at the Gerlache Strait in Antarctica. milehightraveler/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Year in Review: Learning more about God’s creation

Another year is coming to a close. God gave us 12 more months of continuing to learn about His incredible creation and how we can explore our world, glimpse more wonders of the universe, peek into the past, and develop ways to make life healthier, easier, safer, and more pleasurable. We have enjoyed ground-breaking discoveries and puzzled over new dilemmas. In some ways, science has made our lives better this year, and in others, it has made them more dangerous.

Here is a look at some of the scientific highlights from 2023:

God’s amazing creatures

Throughout the year, discoveries continued to showcase the wonders of our Creator’s design. Scientists discovered that ants living in the desert, where there are no landmarks, learn how to build their nests taller so they can find their way back home after foraging excursions. Penguins who must guard their nests around the clock fend off sleep deprivation by taking 10,000 mini naps a day. A team of researchers discovered that polar bears stay toasty in frigid Arctic temperatures because their white fur acts as a natural fiber optic. The fur transmits sunlight to their black skin, which then absorbs the warmth and prevents it from radiating back out. Several studies of bees showed the incredible abilities God gave these little insects. Scientists discovered bumblebees can learn how to perform a task by simply watching their hivemates, and they use geometry to make the different-sized hexagonal cells they build in their combs fit together. Older sisters in the hive teach younger honeybees how to do the “waggle dance” to indicate the direction and distance to a food source.

Medical advances

The journal Science named the development of drugs to fight obesity as the science breakthrough of 2023. Researchers also developed two different vaccines that show promise to treat malaria. WORLD’s Heather Frank reported that the Food and Drug Administration approved brain implants for human trials to treat some neurological conditions. Surgeons performed many firsts in the area of transplants, including double lung transplants and a whole-eye transplant, while doctors in California opened a clinical trial to work toward the first bladder transplant. In a first-of-its-kind trial, doctors repaired a malformed blood vessel in an unborn baby’s brain, and the FDA approved the first oral medication to treat postpartum depression. Researchers also made inroads this year in improved methods of diagnosis. Scientists developed a blood test to help obstetricians identify patients with a high risk of preeclampsia and two studies showed a new eye-tracking technology correctly predicted autism diagnoses between 80 to 90 percent of the time. And engineers developed a new method to detect disease-causing pathogens in less than one second.

CRISPR use grows

The advent of the CRISPR gene editing tool in 2012 brought with it nearly unimaginable potential applications as well as numerous concerns. This year, scientists continued to broaden its use. Heather Frank reported on researchers who used it to make tastier salad greens. Other scientists made a catfish with alligator genes that is more resistant to disease and designed trees that produce more environmentally friendly paper. Researchers also engineered cells that produce insulin, designed silkworms that spin spider silk, edited the genes of chickens to make them resistant to avian flu, and conducted experiments modifying pigs to see if their kidneys could be used for transplants. But experts in London cautioned that heritable genome editing in human embryos remains ethically unacceptable. Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, who was sentenced to three years in prison after using CRISPR to produce the first gene-edited babies in 2018, admitted to The Guardian earlier this year, “I did it too quickly.”

Digging up the past

Archaeologists this year continued to shine a light on Biblical and early Christian times. One study found evidence of human activity on Mount Ararat, in the area where researchers have found a ship-shaped mound the size of Noah’s ark that coincides with the time Bible experts believe the Flood occurred. Just east of Vatican City, researchers discovered the ancient ruins of Roman Emperor Nero’s theater. A researcher from Austria discovered a fragment from a 1,500-year-old manuscript containing verses from the Gospel of Matthew. Scientists found a coin dating to A.D. 66 or 67, during the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome that led to the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple in A.D. 70.

Out of this world

This year saw the international space race speed ahead. Heather Frank summarized the endeavors of several countries to return to the moon and launch into deep space. India made history as the first country to successfully land at the moon’s south pole and less than two weeks later launched its first mission to study the sun. In October, NASA launched Psyche, a spacecraft headed for an asteroid that orbits between Mars and Jupiter and that scientists think consists of metals worth about $100,000 quadrillion. But not every launch worked out as planned. Russia’s lunar lander crashed on the moon in August, and SpaceX’s test launch of its giant new rocket, Starship, in April ended in an explosion that led to a federal investigation. A second attempt in November also ended in a fiery explosion. Meanwhile, God’s awesome design of the universe was on display this year as scientists discovered a runaway black hole, an exoplanet that shouldn’t exist, and mysterious objects in space that experts can’t identify.

AI benefits and risks

Artificial intelligence continues to fascinate and frighten us. This year, scientists experimented with the technology for such applications as deciphering words that a test subject merely thought about, engineering antibodies to treat cancer, simulating people who have died, and decoding ancient, charred scrolls. Many high schools and colleges voiced concerns that AI makes it far easier for students to cheat, and scientific journal staff worried that some researchers might submit scientific papers written by AI that may contain false information. In March, 1,000 AI experts, including Elon Musk, signed a letter calling for a six-month pause in developing new AI systems. In May, Geoffrey Hinton, credited as the godfather of AI, left his job at Google to alert the world of the dangers AI poses. In June, Pope Francis and Santa Clara University teamed up to warn AI companies that technological advances should be for the common good of humanity and the environment.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

Beginnings alone is worth the price of a WORLD subscription. —Ike

Sign up to receive Beginnings, WORLD’s free weekly email newsletter on science and intelligent design.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...