As a journalist, answering ‘the typewriter’ or ‘the word processor’ seems a little boring so I’m going to step back into my previous existence as a biologist.
The greatest innovation in biology (and beyond) has got to be Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. It is a wonderfully elegant, almost childishly simple and awesomely powerful idea. Without Darwin’s theory of evolution biologists would lose the glue that holds their subject together. It helps us to understand the appearance of hospital superbugs, the family groupings of animals and plants as well as some spectacular examples of bad ‘design’ in the natural world. The ‘God did it’ alternative has a hard time with vestigial eyes in cave-dwelling fish, the disgustingly silly rabbit digestive system and even your bad back. Without evolution, biologists would be little more than stamp collectors gathering stories about how bits of the natural world work without knowing where they came from, how they fit together and why they are that way.
More than this though Darwin’s brilliant innovation has allowed us to slip the shackles of oppressive, patriarchal religious tradition. It helped us to realise that human nature can be beautiful, good, charitable, moral, artistic and loving without the help of God. Here’s to Darwin!