Substantial efforts are focused on identifying single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) throughout the human genome, particularly in coding regions (cSNPs), for both linkage disequilibrium and association studies. Less attention, however, has been directed to the clarification of evolutionary processes that are responsible for the variability in nucleotide diversity among different regions of the genome. We report here the population sequence diversity of genomic segments within a 450-kb cluster of olfactory receptor (OR) genes on human chromosome 17. We found a dichotomy in the pattern of nucleotide diversity between OR pseudogenes and introns on the one hand and the closely interspersed intact genes on the other. We suggest that weak positive selection is responsible for the observed patterns of genetic variation. This is inferred from a lower ratio of polymorphism to divergence in genes compared with pseudogenes or introns, high non-synonymous substitution rates in OR genes, and a small but significant overall reduction in variability in the entire OR gene cluster compared with other genomic regions. The dichotomy among functionally different segments within a short genomic distance requires high recombination rates within this OR cluster. Our work demonstrates the impact of weak positive selection on human nucleotide diversity, and has implications for the evolution of the olfactory repertoire.