For centuries, writers have attempted to predict the future of the human race.
Some have argued that we are destined to evolve into super-beings, others that we are turning into dim-witted goblins incapable of anything more demanding than watching TV.
But according to a leading geneticist, both visions are wrong because human evolution has ground to a halt.
Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, says the forces driving evolution – such as natural selection and genetic mutation – no longer play an important role in our lives.
The people living one million years from now, should Man survive, will resemble modern-day humans.
‘We now know so much about the process of evolution that we can make some predictions about what might happen in future,’ said Professor Jones in a lecture on Monday.
Evolution is driven by natural selection and mutation.
Genetic mutations create traits which, if helpful, give individuals a competitive edge over rivals.
For most of human history, life was so tough that huge numbers of children died before they reached adolescence.
‘In ancient times, half our children would have died by the age of 20.
‘Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21,’ he continued.
In a harsh environment where people are competing to survive, natural selection is a potent force.
So in Ice Age Britain, a mutation which gave a baby more resilience against the cold or famine also gave it a strong competitive edge, making it more likely to survive and pass its genes on to others.
But in a modern world of central heating and plenty of food, the same mutation is far less likely to give a child any advantage.