May 13, 2008
This is a completely reformulated presentation of a previous paper with the same title; this time with a much stronger emphasis on conceptual aspects of string theory and a detailed review of its already more than four decades lasting history within a broader context, including some little-known details. Although there have been several books and essays on the sociological impact and its philosophical implications, there is yet no serious attempt to scrutinize its claims about particle physics using the powerful conceptual arsenal of contemporary local quantum physics. I decided to leave the previous first version on the arXiv because it may be interesting to the reader to notice the change of viewpoint and the reason behind it. Other reasons for preventing my first version to go into print and to rewrite it in such a way that its content complies with my different actual viewpoint can be found at the end of the article. The central message, contained in sections 5 and 6, is that string theory is not what string theorists think and claim it is. The widespread acceptance of a theory whose interpretation has been obtained by metaphoric reasoning had a corroding influence on the rest of particle physics theory as will be illustrated in several concrete cases. The work is dedicated to the memory of Juergen Ehlers with whom I shared many critical ideas, but their formulation in this essay is fully within my responsibility.
Keywords:string theory, localization