It is a fact of life that oversimplified accounts of the development of science are often necessary in its teaching. Most scientific progress is a messy, complex and slow process; only with the hindsight of an overall understanding of a phenomenon can a story be told pedagogically rather than chronologically. This necessitates the distilling of certain events and personalities from the melee: those who are deemed to have made the most important contributions. It is inevitable therefore that the many smaller or less important advances scattered randomly across hundreds of years of scientific history tend to be swept up like autumn leaves into neat piles, on top of which sit larger-than-life personalities credited with taking a discipline forward in a single jump. Sometimes this is perfectly valid, and one cannot deny the genius of an Aristotle, a Newton, a Darwin or an Einstein. But it often leaves behind forgotten geniuses and unsung heroes.
My mother delayed my enrollment in the Fascist scouts, the Balilla, as long as possible, firstly because she did not want me to learn how to handle weapons, but also because the meetings that were then held on Sunday mornings (before the Fascist Saturday was instituted) consisted mostly of a Mass in the scouts' chapel. When I had to be enrolled as part of my school duties, she asked that I be excused from the Mass; this was impossible for disciplinary reasons, but my mother saw to it that the chaplain and the commander were aware that I was not a Catholic and that I should not be asked to perform any external acts of devotion in church. In short, I often found myself in situations different from others, looked on as if I were some strange animal. I do not think this harmed me: one gets used to persisting in one's habits, to finding oneself isolated for good reasons, to putting up with the discomfort that this causes, to finding the right way to hold on to positions which are not shared by the majority. But above all I grew up tolerant of others' opinions, particularly in the field of religion, remembering how irksome it was to hear myself mocked because I did not follow the majority's beliefs. And at the same time I have remained totally devoid of that taste for anticlericalism which is so common in those who are educated surrounded by religion. I have insisted on setting down these memories because I see that many non-believing friends let their children have a religious education 'so as not to give them complexes', 'so that they don't feel different from the others.' I believe that this behavior displays a lack of courage which is totally damaging pedagogically. Why should a young child not begin to understand that you can face a small amount of discomfort in order to stay faithful to an idea? And in any case, who said that young people should not have complexes? Complexes arise through a natural attrition with the reality that surrounds us, and when you have complexes you try to overcome them. Life is in fact nothing but this triumphing over one's own complexes, without which the formation of a character and personality does not happen.