Contrary to many modern scientists, who lack philosophical insight as well as spiritual enlightenment, I do not believe that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, a freak accident of nature (especially when it could be argued that the reverse is true, i.e that it's materialism that's the epiphenomenon).
This ideology smacks of left-brain thinking and its tendency to subscribe to the philosophy of randomness, e.g. Big Bang theory, universe coming to existence as most unlikely accident etc.
[Right-brain thinking, by contrast, especially as expressed in religious thought, tends to view all things as being determined by the will of God.
In fact there is a random element in nature, which is free will, and a determined element in nature, which are its laws, physical and psychological.]
It is obvious to me and some others, like mainstream-science whistleblower Rupert Sheldrake, that consciousness is at the heart of all things, be it animals, plants, minerals, trees, stars, planets even the sun.
The Sun was seen as being conscious by most ancient civilisations and it is only the anti-spiritual arrogance that came with the rise of modern scientific prejudice and dogma that poo-poo'ed the idea.
Before the rise of modern scientific dogma, animals were seen as spirits whence the very word 'animal' (anima in Latin meaning soul, spirit).
The above scientific dogma according to which only humans are conscious of course allows for much callousness in the way we treat the earth and the beings who inhabit it.
Modern scientific dogma, like all dogma, is, to say the least, unenlightened and extremely dangerous in its ramifications and implications for the human condition.
N.B. A dogma, to be clear, means an unchallenged belief.