In judging people and bodies of work, one can use stylistic consistency as a rule of thumb, and start by checking the statements in one’s field. The mere presence of correct material means little: it proves only that the author can read and paraphrase standard works. In contrast, a pattern of clearcut, major errors is important evidence: it shows a sloppy thinking style which may well flow through the author’s work in many fields, from physics, to biology, to computation, to policy. A body of surprising but sound results may mean something, but in a new field lacking standard journals, it could merely represent plagiarism. More generally, one can watch for signs of intellectual care, such as the qualification of conclusions, the noting of open questions, the dear demarcation of speculation, and the presence of prior review. In judging wild-sounding theoretical work standards should be strict, not loose: to develop a discipline, we need discipline.
Eric Drexler, ‘Abrupt Change, Nonsense, Nobels, and Other Topics’, Foresight Institute, 1987