Hi Alan, thanks for the thoughtful response. Yes, critical thinking has been responsible for many scientific revolutions in history. I agree that when science reaches a point of crisis, critical thinking will take over.
I am also not against critical thinking. Rather, I'm against using it as a marketable tool for institutions to advertise their programs. Furthermore, I'm arguing that we should be using "critical thinking" more deliberately. For instance, I would describe teaching "students how to question what they hear as the 'truth' and use the tools of reason and science to determine if the received "truth" is in fact true" as "scientific thinking."
You're right that today, science is losing a lot of its authority over people insofar as people are blindly conjecturing "facts" about, say, the vaccine. But that's the issue. They're not educated to think scientifically. One could even say that they're not thinking at all!
The biggest distinction between "critical thinking" and "scientific thinking" - I think - is that the former has no limits. It's just like the proverbial 3-year-old you've described - the kid doesn't know when to stop asking "Why?" Critical thinking not only challenges conventional wisdom but also challenges authority, which is extremely troubling if applied to the hard sciences. The philosopher might ask scientifically taboo questions such as, "Why should we trust science, evidence, or the scientific method?"
These questions might, in turn, hinder rather than expedite scientific progress.
Finally, are there similarities between the two? Yes, definitely. But I think it's better if we can distinguish "scientific thinking" and "critical thinking." Because as of now, these methodologies are conflated.