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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.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.
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These three ideas or principles are universal throughout science; without them, there would be no scientific or critical thinking. Empirical evidence is evidence that one can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell; it is evidence that is susceptible to one's senses.
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.
I will explain the formal procedures of the scientific method later in this essay, but first let's describe the more general practice of scientific or critical thinking.
When one uses the scientific method to study or investigate nature or the universe, one is practicing scientific thinking.This, to my mind, is perhaps the foremost reason for college students to study science, no matter what one's eventual major, interest, or profession. At this point, it is customary to discuss questions, observations, data, hypotheses, testing, and theories, which are the formal parts of the scientific method, but these are NOT the most important components of the scientific method.The scientific method is practiced within a context of scientific thinking, and scientific (and critical) thinking is based on three things: using empirical evidence (empiricism), practicing logical reasonsing (rationalism), and possessing a skeptical attitude (skepticism) about presumed knowledge that leads to self-questioning, holding tentative conclusions, and being undogmatic (willingness to change one's beliefs).Critical thinking is thinking correctly for oneself that successfully leads to the most reliable answers to questions and solutions to problems.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.Science is a method that allows a person to possess, with the highest degree of certainty possible, reliable knowledge (justified true belief) about nature.The method used to justify scientific knowledge, and thus make it reliable, is called the scientific method.Reliable knowledge is knowledge that has a high probablility of being true because its veracity has been justified by a reliable method.Reliable knowledge is sometimes called justified true belief, to distinguish reliable knowledge from belief that is false and unjustified or even true but unjustified.Most textbooks do an inadequate job of this task, so this essay provides that information.This information in its present form is not in your textbook, so please read it carefully here, and pay close attention to the words in boldface and the definitions in italics.