The existence within natural populations of large amounts of genetic variation in molecules and morphology presents an evolutionary problem. The 'neutralist' solution to this problem, that the variation is usually unimportant to the organisms displaying it, has now lost much of its strength. Interpretations that assume widespread heterozygous advantage also face serious difficulties. A resolution is possible in terms of frequency-dependent selection by predators, parasites and competitors. The evidence for pervasive frequency-dependent selection is now very strong. It appears to follow naturally from the behaviour of predators, from the evolutionary lability of parasites, from the ecology of competition and, at the molecular level, from the phenomena of enzyme kinetics. Such selection can explain the maintenance not only of conventional polymorphism but also of continuous variation in both molecular and morphological characters. It can account for the occurrence of diversity within groups of haploid and self-fertilizing organisms, and for the evolution of differences between individuals in their systems of genetic control.