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By the time of Paul Atreides, many planets are inhabited and the galaxy is ruled from somewhere other than Earth.

Is Earth still habitable? If so, what kind of place does it have in the galaxy at that point? Is it just a historical site, or worn out from overuse of resources? Is it any kind of player in galactic politics anymore?

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    this is explained in detail in the "Prequel" books – SteveED Feb 22 '12 at 6:09
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    That's just cruel. I'm curious, but I don't think I could bring myself to read any more of those. – dlanod Feb 23 '12 at 5:02
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    @dlanod: I've been told about the prequels. I have no intention of reading them. – Tango Feb 23 '12 at 5:17
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    @TangoOversway - think of it as a "Episode 1-3" syndrome. They aren't nearly as bad as phanatics would paint them (though admittedly not nearly as good as Frank Herbert's work) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 23 '12 at 11:24
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    @DVK: I beg to differ; they're just as bad as people say. Possibly worse. It's bad when you start rooting for the bad guys to win so it's a parallel universe and not the Dune you know and love. – James Sheridan Mar 28 '14 at 11:14
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This answer is specific to the original Dune canon. There are very few mentions of Earth, but I believe this answer collects all of them.

Characters with Other Memory have recollections of Earth, but these are mostly lines about their remembering, and not about what they remember. All explicit mentions of what they remember refer to things from pre-space history (that is, real, out-of-universe history).

Earth is still in existence following the Butlerian Jihad. The Commission of Ecumenical Translators spent 7 years on Earth writing the Orange Catholic Bible.

C.E.T. convened on a neutral island of Old Earth, spawning ground of the mother religions.

The Butlerian Jihad concluded in 108 BG, but there are no dates associated with the Orange Catholic Bible. The Guild existed at the time of the C.E.T., but was said to be beginning to build its monopoly, and the dating system B.G. is listed as being based on the "genesis" of its monopoly. So it is open to interpretation as to how long the Guild existed "Before Guild".

Earth likely still existed at the time of Arrakis's original colonization. There are several mentions in Dune about life from Terra that was brought to Arrakis when it was initially terraformed. It could be argued that these species may have originated on Earth, but could have been introduced to other planets first, and then brought to Arrakis later on.

KULON: wild ass of Terra's Asiatic steppes adapted for Arrakis.

Two characters own items from Earth. Darwi Odrade owns an original Van Gogh painting, which is mentioned frequently in Heretics and Chapterhouse. In Dune Messiah, Paul briefly picks up and puts down a conch shell:

The remains of a conch shell from the seas of Mother Earth lay on a low table beside the balcony rail.

However, both of these characters have access to immeasurable wealth (as Emperor and post-Empire Mother Superior), and possess Other Memory.

The most we know about Earth's existence at the time of the novels has to be derived from this exchange between Paul, Korba, and Stilgar in Dune Messiah:

[Stilgar:]"M'Lord, I can name every world our people touched in their migrations. I know the reaches of Imperial . . ."

[Paul:]"The Golden Age of Earth, have you ever studied that?"

"Earth? Golden Age?"

Stilgar was irritated and puzzled. Why would Paul wish to discuss myths from the dawn of time?

[...]

"Stilgar," Paul said, "you urgently need a sense of balance which can come only from an understanding of long-term effects. What little information we have about the old times, the pittance of data which the Butlerians left us, Korba has brought it for you. Start with the Genghis Khan."

The Golden Age of Earth is mentioned earlier in the book: Scytale wonders if Farok (a Fedaykin) has ever heard of camels or the Golden Age of Earth. We can't tell much from Scytale's knowledge of this though, since he is Bene Tlielax (and can be loosely considered as belonging to the Other Memory category).

It's not clear if Stilgar actually knows what the Golden Age is, but either way, he considers either Earth or its Golden Age to be myth. Paul then informs us that the Butlerian Jihad caused large amounts of history to be lost. Maybe this came just from losing all computer archives, or maybe it was direct destruction of historical records, as Leto II himself would later do.

Let's jump back to writing of the Orange Catholic Bible by the C.E.T.. Take note of these lines, all taken from the same section:

Mankind's movement through deep space placed a unique stamp on religion during the one hundred and ten centuries that preceded the Butlerian Jihad.

Immediately, space gave a different flavor and sense to ideas of Creation. That difference is seen even in the highest religious achievements of the period. All through religion, the feeling of the sacred was touched by anarchy from the outer dark. [...] During this period, it was said that Genesis was reinterpreted, permitting God to say: "Increase and multiply, and fill the universe, and subdue it, and rule over all manner of strange beasts and living creatures in the infinite airs, on the infinite earths and beneath them."

They met "in the common belief that there exists a Divine Essence in the universe." Every faith with more than a million followers was represented, and they reached a surprisingly immediate agreement on the statement of their common goal: "We are here to remove a primary weapon from the hands of disputant religions. That weapon -- the claim to possession of the one and only revelation."

I think that these lines, along with the exchange about the Golden Age of Earth, tell us everything we need to know about Earth's role at the time of Dune.

Humans had been colonizing the universe for 11,000 years prior to the Butlerian Jihad. Space travel complicated the old ideas about religion. The Butlerian Jihad, which was religious in nature and caused a great loss of historical records. Earth was still considered the source of all religions at this time. All major religions convened on Earth following the Jihad, and mutually agreed to believe the universe itself was divine, and there was no one true revelation. 10,000 years go by, and the Orange Catholic Bible has remained.

Through both intentional & accidental action, Earth lost its status as religiously significant. By 10,000 AG, it is no longer known, believed, or important that Earth is the origin of humankind. Unless you have Other Memory and know better, Earth just really isn't worth mentioning.

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    Though we may conclude that Stilgar considers Earth to be myth, it's untenable to generalize his, or almost any Fremen's, conceptions regarding cosmopolitan issues, including ancient history, to other planets. See pp.438-9 in Dune where Stilgar has to be explained the subtleties of which flag Shaddam hoists in Arrakeen when the Fremen prepare to attack. He doesn't understand CHOAM or kenly. Stilgar is not stupid, but the Fremen are very insular and their greatest chief doesn't get what a teen elsewhere would pick up on. Most non-Fremen people may consider Earth holy/factual/foundational. – Travis Smith of Bexar Dec 7 '15 at 15:56
  • Note their discussion is in Dune Messiah, post-jihad. At that time, Stilgar is Paul's Minister of State. In the above quote of their exchange, the part I snipped out is him being frustrated that Paul is ignoring his need to discuss the highly complex logistics of conquering a planet called Zabulon. There are many examples before this in the book of Stilgar having advanced knowledge of the universe, as he is effectively administering it on Paul's behalf. If the Minister of State for the Known Universe considers the Golden Age of Earth to be a myth, then that view is probably shared by most. – friggle Jan 10 '19 at 17:16
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Details about Earth in Dune universe are on Wikia. Short version:

  • Earth was very important in Galactitic politics before the Titans, being central to the Old Empire.

  • Subsequently, after Machine takeover, it became the central world of the Synchronized Worlds, and housed Omnius Prime.

  • It was the center of the original human slave rebellion, started by Serena Butler and Ginjo

  • Earth was made uninhabitable during Butlerian Jihad (described in the prequel Butlerian Jihad trilogy):

    Then, the atomics detonated; nuclear airbursts generated electromagnetic pulses that scoured the air and surface of the planet. Waves of energy spread, and in a flash obliterated every gelcircuitry network and thinking-machine mind along with Omnius. Planet Earth was completely irradiated and turned into a burnt husk and the machines on the planet were no more.

  • It was later (by the time of Dune) repopulated but now a minor planet:

    The planet remained mostly uninhabitable for centuries. The Orange Catholic Bible would be written on Earth millennia later. It was rebuilt environmentally and re-inhabited but it's now a minor planet with population of just over 2.5 billion.

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  • What's the /XD on the end of Earth in that entry? I found "Earth," which is a very short entry. I searched for XD in the wiki and got nothing other than a number of entries with that on the end of them. – Tango Feb 22 '12 at 6:27
  • @TangoOversway - XD stands for "Expanded Dune". Think Memory Alpha vs. Memory Beta, except here it's Frank Herbert canon vs non-FH books (Brian Herbert/Kevin J Anderson or anyone else) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 22 '12 at 6:32
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    Anyone else misread the answer and wonder why Earth housed Optimus Prime and why Dune/Transformers cross-over fic was considered canon? – dlanod Feb 23 '12 at 5:03
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    @DVK: If that last paragraph is on the wiki, it's wrong. I just read the Appendices to Dune today, and the OCB was written over the course of seven years within a generation of the Butlerian Jihad ending. Is that another nuDune bastardisation of the original, such as the changing of Muad'Dib's birthplace because Kevin J. Anderson doesn't read source material? – James Sheridan Mar 28 '14 at 11:16
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By the time of Paul Atreides, many planets are inhabited and the galaxy is ruled from somewhere other than Earth.

Is Earth still habitable? It depends on the point in time you are talking about. The titans take over around 4000 years, then omnius takes over after they rule for around 120 or so years, then it takes 900 years for the humans to start the butlerian jihad, 100 years later the humans win, omnius goes into deep space. At that when the titans had it, it was nice but most of humanity was in other parts of the galaxy. Then they got lazy, some of the crazy ones took over by force called themselves the titans and rules for awhile in mech suits. They used computer programs to rule over hundreds of billions of people. Eventually omnius a dominate program took over, and enslaved humanity to build things etc. Omnius wasn't evil it just wanted things to run efficiently and treated people well. However one of the other programs made wager too see if humanity could be trusted. At the time certain humans were free on the very edges of the galaxy, too far out to be controlled. One of their noble daughters who was pregnant was abducted. Here baby was killed by Eramus infront a crowd eventually causing the galatic wide revolt. At this point Omnius began to start massacring humans until eramus convinced him to stop at a point. Hundreds of billions dead. Humans fight back by creaking the BG, spacing guild, mentats and swords men etc to fight off the machines. Eventually they win but the war gets nasty earth is completely nuked but all of the people had been slaugthered basically already. So fast forward a couple thousand years. like 10 thousand and we are at Paul time, all these weird things designed to fight or replace machines are are around. By this time earth is basically like a theme park. The SG has allowed humanity to go to other galaxies. Flash forward to leto's long ass reign as a worm. It is gradually becoming a desert on earth and leto is letting it happen. then the great dispora humanity surges out farther and farther into the stars getting weirder and weirder. eventually humanity runs into omnius whose been rebuilding for billions of years and is prescient, the BG had been breeding someone who could avoid prescience for this very reason, earth at this time is back to normal kind of a side show. Omnius comes back and destroys basically 80 percent of all humanity, earth is a plague infested hellhole, Duncan Idaho turns out to be the true KH merges with eramus to link machines and men and it's hinted he's rebuilding earth as well as other parts of the galaxy

If so, what kind of place does it have in the galaxy at that point? Is it just a historical site, or worn out from overuse of resources? Is it any kind of player in galactic politics anymore?

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Earth is the great ancestral home. Not mythological by any means, but more a distant and fading memory with little contemporary significance by the time of Dune. Its importance in a galactic sense is more of an iconic than an actual one. Much of its history is lost or incomplete. Even the Christian dating system of BC/AD has long since been completely supplanted by a timeline which measures dates relative to the founding of the Spacing Guild (BG/AG), with a secondary measure of chronology based on the time of the Butlerian Jihad or Machine Crusade and all events since. It is extremely fascinating, though, that politically, psychologically, and economically humanity has actually changed very little, and in some sense has, for lack of a better or more precise term, regressed by returning to a completely feudal, heavily patriarchal, monopolistically commercial, and extremely warlike social construct, despite the decidedly matriarchal influence of the Bene Gesserit. The lesson here? Perhaps it is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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    This seems like less of an answer to the question asked and more of a meandering 'stream of consciousness'. – Valorum Feb 25 '18 at 9:47
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It looks as though in the Dune saga, Earth is a distant and fading memory, and only a very vague sense of its earlier importance remains, with bits and pieces of its history preserved, and presumably entire swaths of it completely or nearly completely lost.

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    Can you provide any sources to confirm such? – Edlothiad Mar 8 '18 at 8:33
  • Not beyond just vague references in the novels that give us a very dim idea. – user97066 Mar 9 '18 at 8:48

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