How can goals be amenable to reductionist scientific analysis? Maybe we can find it in animals, and do controlled studies on them. Maybe neuroscience and brain scans will find a mechanism in the brain.
Another approach might be to look at human societies with goals, and analyze them in terms of individuals and their personal goals. Religions, political empires, corporations, and social groups have group character/consciousness/goal that seems greater than the sum of the individual purposes.
The two most striking and poorly understand human characteristics are consciousness and collective social purpose.
Ants and bees seem to have social purpose because colonies cooperate to build nests and retrieve food. But these are programmed instincts to propagate their genes. Humans will cooperate with unrelated strangers, and work towards other goals.
Aristotle said that man is by nature a social animal. An individual who can escape the common purposes of our society must be either a beast (if fully programmed) or a god (if free and conscious).
Studying human social purpose presents an opportunity to analyze what purpose is, because it can be divided into the intentions and actions of individuals.
Religions give good examples of social purpose. The Catholic Church has a purpose. So do the Mormons, and the Israeli Jews. Their purposes are written in books, and are also evidenced by the collective behavior of the members.
Academic critics of these religions often point to peculiarities in their sacred books, and wonder whether the followers really believe the official doctrines. They miss the point. The followers have gained a purpose to their lives.
One of the biggest selling books of recent decades was The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It has an inspirational Christian message. It is also incomprehensible to the atheist professors who believe that science has shown that life has no purpose.
The Islamic world has a purpose also. Unfortunately it does not believe in free will, and it is incompatible with western civilization.
Political movements provide more examples of social purpose. Donald Trump just won the American Presidency by redefining the purpose of the office to represent Americans first. He had a coherent and principled vision, and he restored a sense of purpose to conservative Republicans.
Trump’s candidacy was a big mystery to the leftists who dominate universities and news media. They still cannot accept it, and blame the election on fake news and Russian hacking. The problem is that they have all been brainwashed by Marxist thinking about the inevitability of historical trends. They do not believe in Christian ideals, and they do not believe in an American national character and purpose. They are like the people who see the metronome demonstration and still do not believe it.
Libertarians are similarly blinded. They believe in freedom, not Marxism, but they deny that any social purpose is worth defending.
Some leftists are like the Borg on the TV show Star Trek (The Next Generation). They don’t really have any character or purpose, except to parasitically assimilate and equalize everyone else. They only tolerate what they subjugate, and freedom is meaningless to them.
To the Left, their political progress follows a Marxist inevitability, just as increasing entropy follows a thermodynamic law. They see no sense in fighting it.
For those with a sense of purpose on the political Right, leftist progressivism is the symptom of a dying and decaying society. Yes, everyone accepts the laws of thermodynamics, but one of the purposes of life is to exploit low past entropy, not to hasten thermal equilibrium. The leftist is like someone who says death is inevitable, so we should just let it happen.
Currently we have an irreconcilable political divide between what some call the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left. They are opposite like the keys on your keyboard. The Alt-Right has a nationalist purpose, and is like those who tried to save the Roman Empire from barbarian invaders. The Ctrl-Left is fatalist, and seeks group-think conformity with their decadent views. The Alt-Right seeks freedom and righteousness, while the Alt-Left seeks assimilation and sublimation. Trolling is the tool of the Alt-Right, while shaming is the tool of the Alt-Left.
Under the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, our world occasionally splits into worlds that are mutually invisible and incomprehensible to each other. Maybe the USA is currently going through such a splitting between the Alt-Right and the Alt-Left. The Alt-Right is the living Schrödinger cat, and the Alt-Left is the dead cat.
Whether you live in the Right world or the Left world, it should be possible to analyze cultures and movements that really do have a social purpose, and figure out how that purpose arises.