We introduce a new approach to model selection that performs better than the standard complexity-penalization and hold-out error estimation techniques in many cases. The basic idea is to exploit the intrinsic metric structure of a hypothesis space, as determined by the natural distribution of unlabeled training patterns, and use this metric as a reference to detect whether the empirical error estimates derived from a small (labeled) training sample can be trusted in the region around an empirically optimal hypothesis. Using simple metric intuitions we develop new geometric strategies for detecting overfitting and performing robust yet responsive model selection in spaces of candidate functions. These new metric-based strategies dramatically outperform previous approaches in experimental studies of classical polynomial curve fitting. Moreover, the technique is simple, efficient, and can be applied to most function learning tasks. The only requirement is access to an auxiliary collection of unlabeled training data.