You'll probably find most of these elaborated on elsewhere.
In my terminology, "higher consciousness" is the ability to think more complex thoughts. The only difference between the actions , and therefore the "thoughts", of a single sub-atomic particle and a human are in their complexity. (Action, location and appearance are ultimately the only characteristics we can observe objectively about any object or entity.)
"Consciousness" implies simply environmental- and self-awareness. You could say a camcorder is capable of the former. We need another word which means the above, or "complex information processing ability". Perhaps "intelligence" would do, but its present meaning is not so broad.
Some people talk about life being sacred. I say it's consciousness that's sacred. Life (or artificial intelligence) is sacred to the degree it embodies consciousness. Some "animals" are more conscious, and therefore more sacred, than some "humans". "The Unending Search for Truth" is the most sacred, for now.
Conscious mind, concepts of soul and free will are all illusions, the result of language and being able to share perceptions. Perhaps the main function of rational discussion is to help me learn how I think. So maybe we're all talking to ourselves. Well, that's something anyway. If you think you already know how you think, or have already said all you need to say to yourself, then you have become either a vegetable or a computer. Your programming is complete; your actions are predictable.
There is no such thing as pure altruism. Whatever I do or believe, it's because I see "something in it for me", even if it's "only" the pleasure of being able to imagine a better future for the world.
I've never made sense of the difference between ethics and morality. The closest I come is that ethics is to morality what climate is to weather.
Proof is basically subjective. Proving something is a matter of getting sufficient evidence to convince the right people.
Every "good" characteristic or attitude has an opposite that is perhaps equally good in the right circumstances. Life is a matter of making the right compromises.