When The X Files first aired (September 1993), I was a few months into the start-up of a major development program for NASA. (A part of the Earth Observing System, if anyone wonders. EOS was the third largest program at NASA, after the ISS and the shuttle.) The X Files, among other things, went by the wayside.
Recently, having finished my trip down Star Trek / memory lane -- Netflix being a wonderful institution -- I began watching The X Files. It can be entertaining, no doubt, but alien abduction? I just don't get it.
If aliens traveled the vast distances from ... wherever to Earth, it's conceivable they would abduct a few people to -- figuratively -- pick their brains. Having said that:
1. If ET understands humans well enough to selectively recover data from and/or edit our brains (alien abductions in fiction and tabloids tend to involve repressed memories), why can't they -- much more simply -- find out what they want to know by watching our TV, listening to our radio, and tapping our Internet? If ET abducted Nobel Prize winners and high-ranking officials, they might learn something they couldn't just pick out of the ethers. That's not who we hear is being abducted. What that's unique would ET learn kidnapping random folks on lonely country roads?
2. Suppose ET did abduct people. Why bother to suppress their memories and put them back? Not morality: ET has (in this supposition) kidnapped and altered the memories of people. That doesn't sound like ET has much respect for humans. Not to keep his presence secret: ET must by now know (in this supposition) that lots of abductees recover their memories. Whereas lots of people disappear without a trace all the time ... look at these FBI missing person statistics.
In short, I don't see the logic in ET abducting random humans. If ET did, I don't believe he'd keep putting them back where he found them despite, apparently, decades of failures in memory erasure.
So for SFnal purposes, I'll conclude alien abduction is a trope.
(As we are approaching tabloid territory, a true confession: I once tiptoed around the edges of committing the alien-abduction trope. In Moonstruck, my first-contact novel, aliens do abduct people -- but the aliens do not put anyone back. And there's a good reason why abducting regular Joe types makes sense. I won't be any more specific lest I ruin the book for anyone.)
All that said ... many people BELIEVE in alien abduction. There are plenty of books and articles that take the subject seriously -- without much in the way of evidence. Recovered memories? Not evidence, because recovery of repressed memories is a rather suspect mechanism. As the American Psychiatric Association says (here), "At this point it is impossible, without corroborative evidence, to tell a true memory from a false one."
Phew! That was a lot of words ... I think I'll go unwind in front of another episode of The X Files.