"I attended public schools as a child and, as an adult, keep up with the news everyday and I am fairly convinced that there is not much intelligent life on this planet...let alone any other."
Are we alone in the universe? This is a question man has been asking for thousands of years. Are we? Honestly, I don't know. There is no hard science to say we are alone and yet there is no hard science to say we are not. But let's take a look at what we do know to help us understand if we are or are not, in fact, alone.
To begin, we can use calculations and go on probability (starting with the 72 sextillion or 7 X 10 to the 22nd power, stars in the observable universe) and the numbers will come out in favor that you may very well find life on another system. Having said that though, using calculations to come up with probabilities of something happening is still just that...a probability and not an exact science.
Next, what about the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or SETI? It has been over 30 years since volunteer, Dr. Jerry R. Ehman, scribbled his famous phrase of "WOW" over a strong signal printout and SETI has produced nothing significant since (or before the WOW signal, in fact) then. SETI, is in fact, considered by many, as nothing more than UFOlogy or the study of UFOs considered to be pseudoscience by many in the scientific community.
Finally, we have the problem of life evolving at all. There is no widely accepted theory as to how life came about on this planet. Not the Random Chance Theory, not the Chemical Affinity Theory, not the Self-Ordering Tendencies Theory or the Ocean Vents Theory or the Life from Clay Theory. The Urey-Miller experiment has been invalidated. In fact, most previously held views of how life arose are now rejected and we are back to square one; how did life begin? If we cannot effectively explain how life arose on this planet than how are we to blindly believe that it exists in other systems?
In ending, many people who believe that there is intelligent life out in the universe go on the same principle of religious folk; Faith. No empirical data to prove one way or another so I cannot prove that Darth Vader isn't running around in a moon size battle station or that little (but big headed) people are not roaming around in saucers but the proof is in the pudding but the problem is, there is no pudding.