In all things (by way of Kevin Baker). It’s like our own mental entropy.
Wanting something to be possible doesn’t make it possible.
Steven Den Beste (chance of NSFW pictures high) has written on this phenomenon at Hot Air’s Green Room a couple times now.
In Government By Wishful Thinking, he talks mostly about how this relates to politics, and one of the key quotes is regarding the anti-war movement from a few years back:
It was teleologists who were mainly involved in the anti-war movement about five years ago when it was at its greatest. I remember reading about how they’d have a demonstration somewhere. Lots of people would come out. They’d parade about carrying signs saying, “End the war!” Someone would burn a giant mockup of President Bush’s head. And afterwards they’d all talk about how successful the demonstration had been.
Successful how? It didn’t have any political effect that I ever noticed. The war didn’t end because of the demonstrations. So what was it that they thought was successful? Well, if you asked them they’d talk about how there was all sorts of positive vibes. How good it felt to be out there. And how so many people were feeling the same thing. Which sounds like masturbation, if you’re a materialist, but genuinely makes sense for a teleologist. They really thought that if enough of them got together and wanted the war to end strongly enough, it would spontaneously end. Not because getting enough voters on their side would have electoral consequences, but because the act of wanting it would directly bring that about.
In the more recent Wanting and Doing, Den Beste explains the president’s action (or lack thereof) on Libya from a teleological perspective:
For a teleologist, expressing your desire is how you bring about the event. If enough people say that Qaddafi “must go”, he will vanish in a puff of smoke. That’s why you work for a world consensus, for it is that consensus which alters reality.
(A slightly less implausible way to put it is that if there is strong enough international disapproval, Qaddafi will bow to peer pressure and voluntarily go into exile. But clearly that isn’t going to work with him.)
To a teleologist, it isn’t necessary, and it is obviously wrong, to use military force to depose a corrupt and brutal dictator. Soft power is obviously better.
Except for the minor fact that it isn’t very effective. But as mentioned, to teleologists, empirical results are not persuasive.
When applied to the morons at the Democratic Underground who think that the only reason we haven’t got magical disaster-proof reactors that can siphon off earthquake power to provide all our energy is that the engineers are too hung up on worrying about whether it’s actually possible or not, the idea of teleology explains a lot.
It’s bad enough when people think that government works by wishful thinking, but the idea that science works by wishful thinking I find particularly horrifying.