I think you're right - there is a tendency to see discussion as something adversarial, particularly among people who strongly tie their identities to their ability to make a compelling argument in a written format, regardless of the actual validity of their points. Doubly so if writing is their profession. Writing/debate skills could be an obstacle for participation for a lot of users, however I personally feel that navigating eccentric personalities in an insular community with strongly held values can be a greater challenge.
I can also see how generational differences could factor in. I know I am often inhibited by my fear of being accidentally disrespectful - an inhibition not always shared by older folks, in my experience. Though, I expect this tendency is likely to fade as I age and learn to care less about what others feel about my opinions.
I guess I just don't see why a conversation should "devolve" because someone chose to "rip" the other person's argument "to shreds" instead of furthering the discussion, the latter of which can sometimes require a little more finesse.
Case in point - my very first comment on this site was actually a response to a post of yours about the use of the phrase "wine-dark sea" in greek epic poetry. Another user commented dismissing the post outright as stoner-level navel-gazing. I also disagreed with the presuppositions in your post, but I thought the idea was worth talking about, so I said something.
I think there's a huge difference between pointing out where someone's argument or thought process fails, and just being an asshole to relieve some pent up angst (often the easier option).
Of course, as a newbie here, it's likely that I don't yet understand how all the old-timers relate to each other, so what may seem like blatant disrespect at face value could just be old friends sparring with no ill intent. Another point in favor of letting me have my own "don't post this for six hours" switch, haha.