(In honour of a new science scout badge)


The “I’m a marine biologist and, to be honest, I kind of hate dolphins” badge.

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So you want to be a marine biologist? Well sonny, or sonnette, as the case may be, why don’t you just sit down and let a real marine biologist give you some damn good advice. And wipe that smirk off your face, sit up straight and for goodness sakes stop fidgeting! You’d think you had lice the way you are carrying on. You do? Oh well, never mind.

First of all there are three really, really bad reasons to want to be a marine biologist. If you have even an inkling that these are yours, please run away as fast as possible, ‘cause neither you nor we will be happy.

Three Really, Really Bad Reasons to Want to Be a Marine Biologist

Reason Number One: “I want to be a marine biologist so that I can talk to dolphins.”

Believing this is simply the Kiss of Death. This is the verbal equivalent of reaching down your throat, pulling out your own intestines, wrapping them around your neck and choking yourself. When we hear this our impulse is to thwack you a good one on your keester with the frozen haddock we keep within arm’s reach just for this occasion.

And why is that? It is because, and please listen carefully, while you may want to talk to dolphins, dolphins do not want to talk to you. That’s right. Mostly, dolphins want to eat fishes and have sex with other dolphins. And that pretty much cuts you out of the loop, doesn’t it? Oh, I know that there are the occasional dolphins that hang around beaches, swim with humans and seem to be chummy, but these are the exceptions. You don’t judge the whole human race by the people who attend monster car rallies, do you?

Just be honest with yourself. If you want to talk to dolphins you don’t want to be a biologist. What you really want to do is explore your past lives, get in touch with the Cosmic Oneness and conduct similar-minded individuals on tours to Central America looking for evidence that We Are Not Alone. Our experience is that people who feel this way last about 6.5 minutes in any biology program.

Reason Number Two: “I want to be a marine biologist because I really like Jacques Cousteau.”

That’s nice. We really like Jacques Cousteau, too. But, drinking thousands of gallons of red wine while scuba diving around the world does not make you a marine biologist. It makes you a wonderful and effective spokesperson for the sea, and gives you a liver with the consistency of a chocolate necco wafer, but it does not make you a marine biologist.

Reason Number Three: “I want to be a marine biologist because I want to make big bucks.”

Okay, here’s the bottom line. By Federal law, marine biologists have to take a vow of poverty and chastity. Poverty, because you are not going to make squat-j-doodly in this job. Just how squat is the doodly we are talking about? Well, five years after finishing my PhD I was making slightly less than a beginning manager at McDonalds. Ooh, a 36 year old guy with 13 years of college and 5 years of post-doctoral experience making just about as much as a semi-literate 19 year old with pimples the size of Bolivia, who can speak perhaps 3 words at a time before the term “you know” enters the conversation.

And chastity because, well, who’s going to date a marine biologist? The smell alone tends to dissuade a large proportion of the opposite sex.

Two Really, Really Good Reasons to Want to Be a Marine Biologist

Reason Number One: “You can dress and act almost any way you want.”

This is true. Marine biologists are almost entirely free of any of those silly restrictions that blight the professional landscape of our fellow proletarians. This is because no one really cares about what we do or what we say. You want to come to work dressed in scabrous khaki shorts and a torn black Sandman shirt? Fine. You want to grow a scruffy beard, get a tattoo of a gooseneck barnacle on your arm or burp at inopportune moments? No problem, just do good work.

Reason Number Two: “If you like it, just do it.”

Look, the reality is that you only go around once in life and if, by chance, you do come back, knowing how you have behaved in this life, you will undoubtedly come back as a slime mold. And most slime molds cannot be marine biologists. So just go out there and do what you enjoy. Marine biology is a wonderful profession. You want to find cancer cures by grinding up sponges? How about figuring out why hammerhead sharks always come back to the same seamount? Or where is the missing carbon dioxide that industries are producing; could the ocean be soaking it up? All neat projects. But pay attention here. None of this involves drinking copious quantities of fermented grape juice, while intoning “The ocean, she is strange and wondrous, filled with animals that disturb even a Frenchman.”

The ocean is an exciting, never-dull place that is perfect for piddling away your existence. And just think, you actually get paid to think cool thoughts and do cool things.

And so what if you will never have sex again?

(Thanks to James Wood for the badge suggestion)