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In other words, critical thinking gives you reliable knowledge about all aspects of your life and society, and is not restricted to the formal study of nature.Scientific thinking is identical in theory and practice, but the term would be used to describe the method that gives you reliable knowledge about the natural world.
Clearly, scientific and critical thinking are the same thing, but where one (scientific thinking) is always practiced by scientists, the other (critical thinking) is sometimes used by humans and sometimes not.
Scientific and critical thinking was not discovered and developed by scientists (that honor must go to ancient Hellenistic philosophers, such as Aristotle, who also are sometimes considered the first scientists), but scientists were the ones to bring the practice of critical thinking to the attention and use of modern society (in the 17th and 18th centuries), and they are the most explicit, rigorous, and successful practitioners of critical thinking today.
Other ways of knowing, and there are many in addition to science, are not reliable because their discovered knowledge is not justified.
Science is a method that allows a person to possess, with the highest degree of certainty possible, reliable knowledge (justified true belief) about nature.
Science is a method of investigating nature--a way of knowing about nature--that discovers reliable knowledge about it.
In other words, science is a method of discovering reliable knowledge about nature.When one uses the methods and principles of scientific thinking in everyday life--such as when studying history or literature, investigating societies or governments, seeking solutions to problems of economics or philosophy, or just trying to answer personal questions about oneself or the meaning of existence--one is said to be practicing critical thinking.Critical thinking is thinking correctly for oneself that successfully leads to the most reliable answers to questions and solutions to problems.Empirical evidence is important because it is evidence that others besides yourself can experience, and it is repeatable, so empirical evidence can be checked by yourself and others after knowledge claims are made by an individual.Empirical evidence is the only type of evidence that possesses these attributes and is therefore the only type used by scientists and critical thinkers to make vital decisions and reach sound conclusions.But scientific thinking is not reserved solely for scientists.Anyone can "think like a scientist" who learns the scientific method and, most importantly, applies its precepts, whether he or she is investigating nature or not.Reliable knowledge is sometimes called justified true belief, to distinguish reliable knowledge from belief that is false and unjustified or even true but unjustified.(Please note that I do not, as some do, make a distinction between belief and knowledge; I think that what one believes is one's knowledge.When one uses the scientific method to study or investigate nature or the universe, one is practicing scientific thinking.All scientists practice scientific thinking, of course, since they are actively studying nature and investigating the universe by using the scientific method.